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Robin Lopez expected to return from hand injury Tuesday night

New York Knicks v Portland Trail Blazers

New York Knicks v Portland Trail Blazers

Anadolu Agency

The Portland Trail Blazers defense just got better.

Robin Lopez, who has been out since Dec. 15 with a broken hand, is likely to return to the Portland lineup on Tuesday night. As Jabari Young of noted this was expected, Lopez was listed as “probable” on Monday, but Tuesday the news was confirmed by David Locke, the voice of the Jazz.

The Blazers were a respectable 13-10 without Lopez in the lineup, but their defense is 7.7 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court. Lopez is long and active, plus he anticipates well. He’s their anchor in the paint, plus it lets them move the solid but not spectacular (save for his beard) Chris Kaman to a reserve role. Lopez averaged 9.6 points (on 50.5 percent shooting) plus 7.2 rebounds a game.

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While it may mean less time to beat on mascots, his return is big for Portland’s front line depth.

Portland has lost three straight games and currently sits as the four seed in the West (although they have the fifth best record, because they lead the Northwest division they can be no lower than the four seed). The key thing to note is only three games separate the three seed and the seven seed in the West. Just a few games swing can be the difference between home court in the first round or a much tougher road.

Lopez will bring the Blazers a few games now that he is back.