Over the last 13 games, the Portland Trail Blazers have gone 5-8. They've been without forward LaMarcus Aldridge for the last seven games, and the last three have ended in losses. Aldridge will return for the Blazers on Thursday against the Atlanta Hawks, according to CSN Northwest's Chris Haynes, and it couldn't have come sooner for Terry Stotts' team.
Portland, with its 45-27 record, is fifth in the Western Conference standings, but even with Aldridge's return finds itself a few games from potentially falling out of the playoff race.
The Blazers are now four games back of the Houston Rockets, but only a half-game ahead of the Golden State Warriors. They are just two games ahead of the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks, who currently sit in eighth and ninth at 43-29.
Portland has dearly missed Aldridge's ability to score in the post and off the pick-and-roll. Point guard Damian Lillard had carried the scoring load, but in the last three games shot 31 percent without Aldridge. In addition to the loss of a pick-and-roll threat, the Blazers failed to score more than 94 points in the last three games without much firepower from the bench.
Things get tougher after the Blazers face an Atlanta team that's lost four in a row. They face Chicago, Memphis, Phoenix, Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers in their final 10 games.