Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum has been playing the last three games with a lower back fracture. That's how badly he wants to help his team clinch that eighth final playoff spot in the crowded Western Conference.
According to Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports, the 28-year-old Lehigh University alum has been playing through a non-displaced L3 vertebral transverse process fracture on his back since Thursday. It remains unclear how he sustained the injury.
McCollum did look hobbled and sluggish in Portland's critical 134-131 win against the Dallas Mavericks at the HP Field House on Tuesday. The usually efficient guard only pitched in eight points, four rebounds and two assists in 39 minutes.
Despite just shooting 2-for-14 from the field and 1-for-5 from deep, McCollum still came through in the clutch for the Blazers. With Portland up by just one point with 3.9 seconds in regulation, McCollum went to the line for two pressure-packed free throws. He calmly sank both and gave his team the three-point edge, and ultimately the victory.
The Blazers brass, meanwhile, has yet to confirm nor deny the severity of McCollum's injury. The 6-foot-3 playmaker has done a good job of masking the pain so far and has still played relatively well in the last two games entering Tuesday's match.
CJ McCollum's backcourt mate Damian Lillard has shouldered the load for Portland so far, dropping a ridiculous 112 points in the last two games. Still, McCollum's health will be crucial for the Blazers moving forward, especially in their quest to secure that last playoff berth.
Prior to the showdown with the Mavs, the former NBA Most Improved Player of the Year winner has been averaging 22.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists for the Blazers this season.