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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard, one of the standout performers of the N.B.A. restart at Walt Disney World, will sit out Wednesday’s Game 5 against the Los Angeles Lakers because of a sprained right knee, an injury that could end his season.
Portland must win on Wednesday to avoid elimination in the best-of-seven series after the Lakers responded to a Game 1 defeat by winning the next three games by a combined 51 points.
The severity of Lillard’s injury, sustained Monday night in the third quarter of Portland’s 135-115 defeat, was confirmed Tuesday afternoon by a magnetic resonance imaging exam after a postgame M.R.I. proved inconclusive.
Lillard averaged 37.6 points in Portland’s eight seeding games before the playoffs to earn honors as the player of the seeding games by a unanimous vote of media members. (The New York Times did not participate in voting.) Led by Lillard’s scoring outbursts, which included games of 61 and 51 points, Portland nabbed the No. 8 seed and bumped the Memphis Grizzlies down to ninth, forcing the first-ever playoff play-in. The Blazers then claimed the last playoff spot in the West with a 126-122 victory over Memphis on Aug. 15.
Lillard scored 34 points in the Blazers’ Game 1 victory over the top-seeded Lakers, but he dislocated the index finger on his left (non-shooting) hand in Game 2, then injured his knee on an awkward landing in Game 4 on Monday. Lillard finished with just 11 points that night in more than 26 minutes as the Lakers, who scored the game’s first 15 points, cruised to a 20-point rout.
The N.B.A. restart began July 30 after a layoff of more than four months, followed by just three weeks of full-speed practices and scrimmages. This caused many teams to fear that players were facing an increased risk for soft-tissue injuries — a fear that is proving increasingly prophetic.
All eight first-round matchups have been affected by injuries that high-profile players sustained in the bubble.
Other prominent players who either sustained season-ending injuries in Florida or were still trying to recover from recent injuries: Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons (knee), Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis (foot), Boston’s Gordon Hayward (ankle), Houston’s Russell Westbrook (quad strain), Dallas’ Kristaps Porzingis (knee), Toronto’s Kyle Lowry (ankle) and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Patrick Beverley (calf).