Wizards-Trail Blazers Preview

LaMarcus Aldridge’s extended absence certainly provides another tough situation for the Portland Trail Blazers, whose slump began even with their star big man in the lineup.

Now they’re faced with the possibility of losing yet another starter.

Nicolas Batum’s status for Saturday night is unclear as the Blazers look to get back on track against a Washington Wizards team beginning a four-game road trip.

Portland (31-13) dropped three straight before beating Sacramento on Monday, but it lost Aldridge to a hand injury in that game. He sat out Wednesday’s 118-113 loss at Phoenix before finding out Thursday he’ll miss six to eight weeks after surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Aldridge is averaging 23.5 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks.

”That was the last thing I wanted to hear,” guard Damian Lillard said before scoring 21 points in Thursday’s 90-89 home loss to Boston. ”It’s not like we can stop our schedule until he gets healthy. We just gotta keep on moving forward and try to win games.”

The Blazers allowed the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds remaining against the Celtics without Batum on the floor. He left in the second quarter after aggravating a wrist injury that could keep him out for this game.

"We’ll see how it responds in the next few days," Batum said while wearing a brace. "We’ve got so many guys out, I don’t know if I’m going to miss a game or not."

Portland also has been missing starting center Robin Lopez for more than a month with a broken hand. Backup center Joel Freeland will be out at least a few more weeks due to a right shoulder strain.

”Everybody knows what Nic can bring and what LA brings, so we have to figure out different ways of scoring and sometimes different ways of playing,” coach Terry Stotts said.

Aldridge also sat out the most recent meeting with Washington on March 20. Wesley Matthews scored 28 points and Lillard had 23 and 10 assists as Portland ended a three-game skid in the series with a 116-103 home win.

John Wall had 24 points and 14 assists in that meeting for Washington (29-14), which shot 38.0 percent in a 105-103 overtime loss to Oklahoma City on Wednesday.

Wall finished with 18 points and 13 assists as Washington suffered its first loss in 17 games in which it led going into the fourth quarter.

"You’re going to have nights where you’re not shooting the ball well," said coach Randy Wittman, whose team had won four of five. "We have to get to the rim, get to the free-throw line. It’s a growth process we have to do a better job of."

Nene had 24 points and Paul Pierce added 14 and 12 rebounds for the Wizards, who also face Denver, the Lakers and Phoenix on this trip.

Washington went 2-3 during its last road stretch against Western Conference teams Dec. 29-Jan. 5.

"We have to come off this West Coast trip better than we did the last one," Pierce said. "It’s that time of the season where we’ve got to start peaking. We’ve got to make a little run if we want to catch Atlanta (for the best record in the East). Everybody understands the importance of this trip."