The Portland Trail Blazers are on a four-game winning streak, with three of those wins coming against likely playoff teams (Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks).
However, the Trail Blazers’ chances of making a championship run have never looked slimmed. Portland suffered an enormous blow on Thursday, as shooting guard Wesley Matthews tore his achilles in the Trail Blazers’ 94-75 win over the Mavs.
While Matthews isn’t a household name, he’s a critical piece of the Trail Blazers’ puzzle and one of the best role players in the league.
On a team whose offense is predicated on spacing, Matthews thrives as a spot-up shooter (38.9 3PT%). He can also beat teams from mid-range and, for a guard, is great at post-ups. He also works his tail off on the defensive end and is one of Portland’s best stoppers.
The Trail Blazers are fortunate that they just traded for shooting guard Arron Afflalo, who will move to the starting lineup. But Matthews’ injury is still a huge loss for them. The Marquette product plays his role so well that it will be impossible for Afflalo or anyone else to truly replace him.
Portland will still be one of the better teams in the Western Conference, but it’s hard to imagine this team winning three straight playoff series in that brutal conference to make the NBA Finals without Matthews.