Blazers’ Matthews is hurting, but pressing on

Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews sees only one option left
after trying all the treatments he can on his sore left leg.

”Pray,” he says in all seriousness.

Matthews hurt his leg and ankle, along with his left elbow, just
before the All-Star break. But he’s playing – and praying – through
the pain, hoping to help push Portland into the playoffs.

The Trail Blazers (26-30), are four games back of Houston for
the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. The Lakers are 2 1/2
games out of eighth.

The Blazers need their affable shooting guard down the stretch.
He is averaging 15 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 35
minutes per game. His importance to the team was evident Sunday
night when he made a clutch 3-pointer with just under a minute left
in Portland’s 92-86 victory over the Celtics.

”God bless him,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. ”He’s done it
all year. He’s made some great shots.”

Matthews finished with 24 points, including five 3-pointers, but
often winced in pain. His limp grew more pronounced as the game
went on.

”Ankle, elbow, I’m not even close to 80 percent,” Matthews
said. ”But I’m out there fighting and my teammates are bringing me
along. They’re supporting me.”

According to the Blazers, Matthews has made six of seven 3-point
attempts in the final minute of games when the score is within
three points. On Jan. 10, he hit another memorable 3 with 26.9
seconds to go in a 92-90 victory over the Miami Heat.

The son of nine-year NBA veteran Wes Matthews, the 6-foot-5
Texas native went undrafted out of Marquette but signed with Utah
before the 2009 season. He went on to start in 48 games for the
Jazz his rookie season, averaging 9.4 points. The Blazers signed
him in July 2010.

Earlier this season, a hip injury put Matthews briefly on the
bench in street clothes for the first time in his four-year NBA
career. He had played in 250 straight games, second-most among
active players behind Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook.

In a game at New Orleans just before the All-Star break,
Matthews collided with rookie Austin Rivers and fell awkwardly. He
couldn’t put weight on the leg and needed to be helped off the
court.

Matthews missed Portland’s first game back after the break, but
returned to face the Lakers and Celtics. The victory over Boston
snapped a seven-game Portland losing streak, the team’s longest of
the season.

”As long as I feel I’m not going to further damage my future,
I’m going to keep playing,” he said.

But it clearly isn’t easy, by the looks of his limp. And after
the big 3-pointer against the Celtics, Matthews grabbed his
elbow.

”Every game I’m looking up and praying, `Let me get through
this quarter,”’ he said.

Matthews continues to receive treatment on both his leg and
elbow. The plan after the Boston game was to hook up to electric
stimulation machines at home and watch the movie ”Ironman.”

He’s putting himself through all this for one reason: hope.
While the Blazers were hurt by the seven-game losing streak, they
are not out of it yet by any means. Matthews even has a theory that
if the team can put together five three-game winning streaks over
the next 26 games, it will be enough to get into the playoffs.

Portland missed the postseason last year.

”We haven’t lost hope. We haven’t lost belief,” Matthews said.
”We still feel we can make these playoffs. We know what we’ve got
to do.”