Portland Trail Blazers big man Jusuf Nurkic was taken off the court on a stretcher Monday night after sustaining a gruesome left leg injury against the Brooklyn Nets.
With 2:22 left in the second overtime period, Nurkic missed on a putback attempt and landed awkwardly, leading to his left leg bending in terrible fashion. A foul was called on the play, and after a moment players from both teams began signaling for trainers. Some sprinted away after realizing the severity of the injury.
The injury was so jarring, the first people to reach Nurkic draped a towel over his leg to cover it from view. His leg was put in an air cast, and Nurkic was stretchered to the locker room. There was no immediate word on the details of the injury, but Nurkic will assuredly miss the remainder of the season.
Blazers coach Terry Stotts called the injury “devastating.”
As trainers, teammates and opponents gathered around Nurkic, the Portland crowd chanted “Jusuf Nurkic!” to show its support. The injury also drew swift reaction and messages of support from players around the league.
Nurkic, 24, was enjoying a huge performance prior to the injury, with 32 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and four blocks. Portland went on to win 148-144 to clinch a playoff spot. The 7-foot Bosnian was in the midst of his best season as a pro, averaging 15.4 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 71 games.
“It was tough to finish that game knowing our big fella got hurt like that,” Seth Curry said during an interview on the court. “We just had to lock in. It was tough to do, but we had to lock in and finish that game the right way. We know he worked hard for the win, so we tried to give it to him. We’re all thinking about him.”
Nurkic’s injury is another big blow for the Blazers, who have won four in a row and seven of their last eight despite star guard C.J. McCollum missing the last two weeks with a strained left knee. McCollum is expected to be out at least another week.
“It’s tough, man, to see one of your brothers going down like that — I just don’t know what to say,” said Enes Kanter. “But tonight I’m just going to go home and pray for him. Because this is way bigger than basketball. We clinched the playoffs, but we cannot even celebrate it. He was a big part of our family. Not our team, our family.”
Portland’s center rotation behind Nurkic includes Meyers Leonard, second-year pro Zach Collins and Kanter, who was signed on Feb. 13 after he was waived by the New York Knicks. All three are solid offensively, but none is as good a defender as Nurkic.
The Trail Blazers sit in fourth place in the Western Conference at 46-27 after the win, a half game behind the Rockets for third and 2½ games ahead of the Jazz and Clippers.
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Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.