Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard will watch from the sideline as the Trail Blazers start the post-All-Star break run

Portland Trail Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers already had a rough road to get to playoffs. 

With 26 games left on the schedule, the Blazers currently sit four games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot. 

The same Memphis Grizzlies that beat the Blazers last week in the team's final game before the All-Star break. 

The Blazers didn't only lose that game that night, they lost Damian Lillard. 

With 3:45 left in the game, Lillard went up for a layup but came down awkwardly and in a noticeable amount of pain. It was unclear what the injury was at first, but it was declared after the game that it was a right groin strain. 

The injury kept Lillard from playing in the All-Star Game this past weekend, and now it appears it will keep him on the sideline for a few more games. 

Lillard did not practice with the team on Thursday and told the media that he would not play tomorrow against the Pelicans and possibly beyond. 

When asked how long he anticipates being out, Lillard said "If I had to guess I would say at least 3-4 games. Maybe five games."

Already behind the 8-Ball, the Blazers now have to start the "second half" of the season without the face of their franchise. 

For Lillard, it's just about getting the groin back to 100%. Being able to cut, run, and explode without pain or without fear of re-aggravating the injury. 85% healthy isn't enough to hit the court. It's just not worth the risk.

 

I feel alright. I've been doing rehab since Thursday last week. It's gotten a lot better but I think it's just one of those things where you start feeling better right away, but I think that last 15-10% is what takes some time. That's what takes the longest. - Damian Lillard

Without Lillard leading the charge, the Blazers will likely lean on fellow star CJ McCollum to shoulder the loud. 

"Everybody has to do a little bit more," said Head Coach Terry Stotts. "Obviously, CJ (McCollum) will be counted on to be the primary playmaker and run the offense when he is out there." 

Stotts would not disclose whether or not McCollum or Anfernee Simons would end up getting the start at point guard, but it doesn't take a basketball expert to know that McCollum will be the head of the Portland monster for the next week, and McCollum knows it. 

Just play hard. That's the biggest thing. Play hard, try to execute, keep the game close and win it down the stretch. Protect home court and just make sure I'm putting guys in the best position to succeed. Dame does a lot for us offensively - calling plays, facilitating and scoring -  I'll have to do a little bit more of that. At the same time, one person isn't gonna replace his production. We gotta all be better. - CJ McCollum

According to PlayoffStatus.com, the Blazers have a 25% chance of ending the season in the eight spot, and just a 2% chance of climbing all the way to seven. Meanwhile, the team they are chasing, the Memphis Grizzlies, have a 44% chance of securing the eights seed.

On the bright side, the Blazers still have two games against the Grizzlies remaining on the schedule, both of them at home. Needless to say, they're both huge games. A chance to drastically close the gap, as long as they stay afloat without their captain in the meantime.

Right now, it's just one game at a time, and it starts on Friday against the Pelicans.