Key Blazers try to recover

Matthews says he is better, Batum still has bad back

By Candace Buckner, Columbian staff writer

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TUALATIN, Ore. — The walking wounded materialized from the Trail Blazers' training room on Sunday afternoon.

First, the encouraging news.

When Wesley Matthews left Saturday night's game with throbbing pain in his left hip flexor, he could barely walk. He woke up Sunday and could lift his left leg again without grimacing.

"It's a lot better than what it was yesterday," Matthews said on Sunday afternoon. "It was a big jump from last night to today and I'm hoping for another big jump like that for (Monday)."

Now, the ominous part.

Nicolas Batum was forced out of the game with a sore back. Afterwards, he spent an hour on the phone with his French osteopath, slept uncomfortably through the night and woke up Sunday morning feeling worse than ever before.

"I doubt it. I don't think I'll go tomorrow," Batum said on whether he would play in the Blazers' Monday night game against the Toronto Raptors. "Where I am right now is worse than yesterday. The last time I was on the court, the team played bad because I couldn't do anything."

As the Blazers practiced, the two injured starters sat out.

Matthews, with four adhesive pads stuck to his bare left side, walked around with an "H-Wave" device that created passive muscle contraction.

It was quite a change of pace for the durable Matthews, who has avoided significant injuries and never missed a game in his NBA career. The streak of 250 consecutive games started during his Utah Jazz days, so he has spent little time answering questions about such things like injuries and missing time on the court.

Matthews could use some help with his clichés.

"You don't want to further injure anything — this is a first, you know, I don't talk like this," Matthews said, interrupting his thought.

Matthews tried to continue: "Further injure anything and all that, what have you. I don't know."

Batum suggested he would see a local chiropractor after practice but already received advice from his trusted source Fabrice Gautier, the Los Angeles-based therapist who has treated Batum on the French national team.

Batum credits Gautier for healing his bad back within a matter of days during the Summer Olympics, but the chances for another quick recovery are slim — on Wednesday, Gautier departs for a Christmas vacation in France.

While Matthews hopes for another significant leap and Batum faces his limitations, the Blazers could very well play Toronto without two of their leading scorers.

Batum, who has started all 20 games for the Blazers, played only 17 minutes and scored five points on Saturday night in the 99-80 loss to Sacramento. In healthier moments, Batum averages 16.3 points in 37.8 minutes a game. Batum also leads the team with 49 3-point makes.

Matthews — just the thought of an injury ending his streak has made him lose sleep — shot well during a second-quarter stretch on Saturday and finished with 14 points, just two behind his season average.

"When two of your top four scorers are out, it is (unsettling)," coach Terry Stotts said. "But injuries happen in this league and someone usually has to step in and fill the void. That's what the guys will do."