Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge will play on the road tonight against the Atlanta Hawks after missing seven games due to injury. However; he is unlikely to play as much as he normally does. Aldridge is still experiencing pain in his lower back when he runs and is not 100 percent. His return to action was partially determined by the Trail Blazers’ recent skid and their increasingly questionable playoff status, Aldridge told Mike Tokito from the Oregonian.
“We’ve got 10 games left. The way we are in the standings now makes me want to come back faster and want to get things back on track. That has a part in it. But again, we’ve tried to treat my back any way possible, and now it’s time to see how it is.”
While the Trail Blazers have remained 5th in the Western Conference standings, the once comfortable buffer between them and the lottery has shrunk to two games. There are four teams within that margin gunning to pass Portland (45-27): Golden State (44-27), Memphis (43-28), Phoenix (43-29), and Dallas (43-29)—each of which are firing on all cylinders.
With Aldridge in the lineup, the Trail Blazers have a much better chance to win in Atlanta and expand their buffer (especially if Dallas loses to LAC). Every game has playoff implications now. Fortunately for the Trail Blazers, Hawks shooting guard Kyle Korver is questionable to play as he battles back problems of his own. After losing 9 of their last 13, the Rip City needs every advantage they can get.
If Aldridge looks like his old self, I am less concerned about the Trail Blazers’ playoff position. Portland has a pillow soft schedule coming up with only three total road games after this one (Bulls, Lakers, and Jazz). Still, the focus needs to be on tonight first. Watch Aldridge with a keen eye, as his present degree of health is the largest factor in Portland’s success moving forward.