PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — When the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers tip-off on Tuesday for Game One of their Western Conference Playoff series in Orlando they will be without usual starting power forward Zach Collins.
The third-year man out of Gonzaga left Portland’s game against the Grizzlies with left ankle inflammation after just seven minutes on the court.
Monday, head coach Terry Stotts described the pain Collins is experiencing: “There’s soreness in the top of his ankle when runs.”
Officially listed as left ankle inflammation, Stotts would not say if Collins would miss extended time or just Tuesday’s game.
The silver lining, if you can call it that, for Portland is they have been used to playing without Collins this season. He’s played in just 11 games this season after dislocating his left labrum and having surgery to repair it in November of 2019.
“It’s not ideal,” Blazers point guard Damian Lillard said. “He’s been out the entire season basically and when he came back it was something we were super excited about. He made a difference for us.”
Lillard says the task of replacing Collins will be by committee.
“The next guy has to step in and be ready.”
Lillard expects that next guy will most likely be rookie Wenyen Gabriel. Gabriel’s sole start this season came against the Lakers in January. It was one of the most emotional nights the league has ever seen, as it was the first one for the Lakers, and in Staples Center, since the passing of Laker great Kobe Bryant.
Gabriel logged 12 minutes before fouling out. He contributed a rebound, an assist and a block in what turned out to be a winning effort for the Trail Blazers.
“It was a lot of attention on that game and he came out and he was prepared,” Lillard said. “We don’t expect him to go out there and hold [Anthony Davis] or anybody to zero points, we just want him to come in and give that effort and have a positive effect on the game.”
“I thought he did that the last time, so just knowing that he’s done that against this team specifically, we should have some confidence in him being able to step in for however many minutes it is.”
“We should trust that he can come in and do a solid job like last time.”
The Trail Blazers and Lakers best of seven game series begins Tuesday night at 6 pm PST.