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Blazers’ Damian Lillard ready to assume CJ McCollum will be out for the remainder of regular season

Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Blazers

Damian Lillard already has a grim prospect of what awaits backcourt partner CJ McCollum after the latter suffered a popliteus strain in his left knee during the third quarter of Saturday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs.

The Portland Trail Blazers will examine McCollum again this Sunday, making him week-to-week for the time being, but Lillard isn’t banking on his return anytime soon:

“I don’t want him to have to rush it,” said Lillard, according to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. “And when he does come back, I want him to be himself and be healthy. So, in my mind, we’re going to finish the regular season without him.”

The popliteus is a small muscle at the back of the knee, and it serves a vital role in allowing a player to fully straighten his leg. McCollum said he considers himself “lucky” to have that diagnosis after that injury scare.

Lillard has surely taken ownership of where this team goes, responding with 30 points, 15 assists and three steals in a 106-98 win over the Indiana Pacers on Monday, hoping to keep the Blazers in the race for one of the top three spots.

Portland only has 12 games to navigate without McCollum, and the team is only a win behind the Houston Rockets for third place, making it a dire race to the end.

Their rest-of-season schedule is highlighted by two games against the Detroit Pistons and two others against the Denver Nuggets through their last four games. These matchups will prove vital if the Blazers hope to beat out the Rockets without McCollum.