The Portland Trail Blazers host the New Orleans Pelicans tonight in a game with significant playoff implications.
Portland is currently 11th in the Western Conference standings, while New Orleans is 10th. A Blazers win would flip-flop the two teams and see Damian Lillard and Co. become a play-in team, at least for now.
Injuries have been an issue for both teams. Portland has been missing starting center Jusuf Nurkic since the beginning of February, while guard Anfernee Simons – the team’s second-leading scorer – has been out since before the all-star break.
New Orleans, meanwhile, has been playing without Zion Williamson, and former Lillard sidekick C.J. McCollum has been dealing with a sore thumb.
However, the Blazers got gigantic news the day of the game as Simons was upgraded to questionable. The 23-year-old was expected to miss at least a month after suffering a Grade 2 ankle sprain on Feb. 14.
Injury updates for Blazers-Pelicans, including huge Anfernee Simons news
Before listing the official injury report, it’s important to understand how critical the Simons update is. Via Sean Highkin of the Rose Garden Report newsletter and podcast:
Portland’s second-best player was in the midst of a breakout season before hurting his ankle in the team’s final game before the break. He’s averaging a career-high 21.4 points on a career-high 45 percent shooting from the floor while hitting better than 38 percent of his 9.1 threes per game.
Getting Simons back early would be a major development for a team looking to make a playoff push. As Highkin noted, this wouldn’t be in the plans for a team interested in tanking for a lottery pick.
The rest of tonight’s injury report is as follows:
- Out: Justise Winslow (ankle), Jusuf Nurkic (calf), Ibou Badji (knee), Ryan Arcidiacono
- Questionable: Anfernee Simons (ankle)
- Out: Larry Nance Jr. (ankle), Jose Alvarado (tibia), Zion Williamson (hamstring)
- Questionable: Josh Richardson (quad), Jonas Valanciunas