Playoff time in the NBA is always a thrilling ride. 2021 has been no different, with numerous different matchups living up to the hype. But, there’s been one clear difference this time around. The ridiculous number of injuries that have ripped through various clubs in the postseason, with Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving being the latest casualties.
It all started with the Lakers in the first round, who already dealt with their health issues throughout the course of the regular season. LeBron James and Anthony Davis both missed a ton of games and clearly weren’t at full strength against the Suns in the NBA playoffs. While LeBron toughed it out despite playing on a bummed ankle, AD ultimately got hurt again. He sprained his knee which then led to also straining his groin. At that point, it was game over for the defending champions. Would they still be chasing another ring if their superstar duo were healthy? Most likely.
Although the injury happened back in January, the Denver Nuggets definitely felt the absence of Jamal Murray. While Nikola Jokic was able to push his team past the Portland Trail Blazers in round one of the NBA postseason, not having Murray against the Suns proved to be costly. Their backcourt was a glaring weakness, never mind the lack of help for the MVP offensively. The Nuggets already knew they were going to be without their Canadian guard. But it’s just another reason why the NBA playoffs have been a huge disappointment when it comes to star players going on the shelf. With him playing, Denver could’ve made a serious run again.
Shift over to the East. Joel Embiid is literally playing through a partially torn meniscus for the Sixers. He refuses to sit out, which stands to reason. Philly is trying to chase a title and without their best player, it’s a lost cause. But Game 4 against the Hawks was the perfect example of how beat up Embiid is. He even voiced post-game just how brutal he’s feeling after posting just 17 points. Yet, the big man continues to fight. But without him at full strength, it’s hard to imagine the 76ers actually making a run to the NBA finals, especially when one of their best shooters in Danny Green is also out.
The Nets have been hit with the injury but all season long. Their big 3 barely played together during the regular season and unfortunately, that’s been the case again in the playoffs. Although Kevin Durant has been on another level, including a 49-point performance to lead Brooklyn to a huge win on Tuesday over the Bucks, James Harden is basically playing on a beat-up hamstring, while Irving’s sprained ankle from Game 3 is a huge blow to the lineup. The worst part is that we don’t even know when Kyrie will be able to return at this point.
Then, there is the latest. Wednesday brought a flurry of news across the NBA, with Kawhi Leonard’s knee sprain grabbing the headlines. After he and Paul George absolutely torched the Utah Jazz across the last two games to even things up, Leonard is now potentially out for the rest of the series. It’s common knowledge the Clippers frankly can’t beat a team like Utah without the heartbeat of their rotation on both ends of the court. It’s likely game over for LA. Oh, and did we mention that Mike Conley also hasn’t played at all in this round for the Jazz because of a hamstring injury? While Quin Snyder’s team does have enough other weapons to still win ballgames, Donovan Mitchell’s backcourt partner is still a key piece.
Now, for possibly the worst news of the lot. Chris Paul and the Suns have been lights out in the NBA playoffs and look poised for a run to the finals. It’s been revealed however that CP3 will need to enter the league’s health and safety protocols for 7-14 days, which is going to keep him out for the first few games of the conference finals, at the very least. It’s unknown if he’s actually tested positive for COVID-19, but regardless, this could be the straw that breaks Phoenix’s back. Without their floor general, it’s hard to imagine them getting past Utah. However, if the Clippers somehow advanced without Kawhi, the Suns would probably have better luck beating them.
Nevertheless, you can see that the NBA playoffs have been an absolute mess. Sure, there’s been entertaining basketball on a nightly basis but the amount of star players that are either playing through injuries or being sidelined for other reasons is a joke. The limited offseason after last year’s bubble is most likely playing a factor, but there’s really nothing the NBA can do about it.
This has just been a huge unfortunate turn of events.