Damian Lillard’s NBA season, capped with an incredible run in the Orlando bubble, is very likely over. The Portland Trail Blazers guard is leaving the bubble, and will undergo an examination of his sprained right knee back in Portland.
Lillard carried the Blazers to an unlikely playoff berth, with incredible game after incredible game. For the season, he averaged 30 points per game, and was at 37 points in the eight-game regular season restart. The physical toll was serious though, and after being limited to just 11 points in 26:35 of game action in Game 4 against the Los Angeles Lakers, he was set to miss Game 5 on Wednesday night.
After the Milwaukee Bucks’ decision to strike and sit out yesterday’s playoff game, the NBA was forced to postpone the entire slate. There are reports that play will resume on Friday, though so far nothing is official. Even with things pushed back, it is highly unlikely that Lillard will be able to return to the bubble, pass protocols, and play for the team in just a day. And it is even more unlikely that the Lillard-less Blazers will be able to push things far enough for him to return to the playoffs.
The superstar guard seems at peace with all that. You can look back to his back-to-back 51 and 61 point outings in must-win games to see that he is all about competing, and was going to do what was necessary to get Portland into the playoffs. A number of players are reportedly not totally thrilled with the bubble overall, and Lillard definitely seems thrilled to get back to his family a bit early.
As his Lakers rival LeBron James said a few days ago, it has been difficult for players to be apart from their families for this long. Guys are used to week-long road trips, but months on end in Orlando without seeing family has to be very difficult, especially for someone with a young son like Lillard.
Damian Lillard led the Portland Trail Blazers to a 6-2 record in the eight-game restart, locking up the No. 8 seed. Because the Memphis Grizzlies were still within the four-game threshold for a play-in series, they faced off for the final playoff spot. Lillard went for 31 points and 10 assists, leading the team to a 126-122 playoff-clinching victory. In Game 1 against the Lakers, he scored 34 to lead the Blazers to an upset win. It has been all Lakers since that game though, and when things get back underway, LeBron James and company are expected to roll.
Still, we’ll always remember this crazy piece of NBA history, and Lillard’s heroics were a huge part of the story for the first few weeks.
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