NBA

Jusuf Nurkic Helped the Trail Blazers win the Play-In Game Despite Dealing With the Passing of His Grandmother

The Portland Trail Blazers punched their ticket to the 2020 NBA Playoffs defeating the Memphis Grizzlies 126-122 in the first-ever play-in game in NBA history.

Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic played with a heavy heart as he announced a few hours before the game that his grandmother passed away from COVID-19.

A look at Jusuf Nurkic’s career

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Nurkic started his professional career in Croatia. In 2012, he signed a four-year contract with Cedevita. He was nominated for the FIBA Europe Young Player of the Year Award in 2014. Nurkic was a Croatian League champion, a Croatian Cup winner, and the Croatian League Finals MVP in 2014. During the 2014 NBA draft, the Chicago Bulls selected Nurkic with the 16th overall pick. He was later traded to the Denver Nuggets on draft night.

Nurkic played in 62 games for the Nuggets and started in 27 of them. He averaged 6.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Nurkic was named to the All-Rookie Second team after his first year with the Nuggets. During his second year, he was sidelined for the first half of the season due to an injury. He played in 32 games during the 2015-16 season, making three starts. The seven-foot big man averaged 8.2 points and 5.5 rebounds. Nurkic displayed a lot of versatility in the league and could score in multiple ways, whether outside or inside the paint.

During the 2016-17 season, he was traded to the Trail Blazers. Nurkic was what the Trail Blazers needed, and he immediately made an impact when he joined the team.

Jusuf Nurkic made an impact when he joined the Trail Blazers

Nurkic became a full-time starter when he joined Portland. At the end of the 2016-17 season, he started in 19 games and averaged 15.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 3.2 assists. In his first full season with Portland, his numbers continued to improve. With Portland having a star player in Damian Lillard, Nurkic complimented him well.

He had a breakout year during the 2018-19 season. Nurkic averaged a career-high in multiple offensive categories. He averaged 15.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 3.2 assists. Toward the end of the season, Nurkic suffered a compound fracture of his left tibia and fibula in a game against the Brooklyn Nets. He had 32 points and 16 rebounds before suffering the injury. Nurkic missed the remainder of the season.

Jusuf Nurkic playing in an important game while dealing with the loss of his grandmother

Nurkic made his return from his injury during the NBA restart and was a significant boost to the Trail Blazers’ team. Going into the NBA restart, Portland was one of the teams fighting to make the playoffs. The Trail Blazers were one of two teams playing in a play-in game to see who would get the No. 8 seed in the playoffs.

Portland took on the Memphis Grizzlies, and all Portland needed to do is win one game. For Nurkic, it was a tough day because he found out that his grandmother passed away from COVID-19. With a heavy heart, he decided to play in the game and help his team come away with a victory, and he did just that. He had an impressive performance finishing with 22 points, 21 rebounds, six assists, and two steals to help Portland reach a 126-122 victory over Memphis.

A few hours before the game, Nurkic posted a photo with him and his grandmother on his Instagram. His teammates showed Nurkic a lot of support during a tough time and made sure they were there for him. Even though he was dealing with the loss of a family member, Nurkic wanted to help his team make the playoffs.