From Paul to Wall, player health has been a key storyline
POSTED: May 12, 2015 2:55 AM ET
Without John Wall, how far can the Wizards go in the 2015 playoffs?
In an atmosphere where NBA coaches monitor their players' minutes more than ever, it seems odd that the injury bug has plagued so many teams this postseason. An injury to a key role player can swing a game, which can swing a series, which can swing the entire playoffs.
But star players? Their injuries can influence multiple games. Derrick Rose, Paul Pierce and LeBron James highlighted an epic weekend of bank shots and buzzer-beaters in the NBA playoffs, but injuries continued to serve as a crucial subplot along the way.
Here are eight injury setbacks that have and will continue to affect the rest of the playoffs:
Parsons dealt with a cartilage issue in his knee towards the end of the season and was able to suit up for just one game in the first round against the Rockets. Simply put, the Mavericks could have used him against his former team.
Matchups are extremely important in a playoff series, and Parsons' absence was a huge blow for Dallas on both sides of the ball. Forcing James Harden to work on the defensive end by guarding Parsons or Monta Ellis may have helped slow down the bearded one. It certainly couldn't have hurt. Instead, Houston's worst offensive performance was a 103-point outing in the Game 5 clincher.
Chicago's offense went cold in its Game 4 loss to Cleveland. Specifically, big men Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic combined to shoot 7-for-28 from the field on Sunday. Had he been available, Gasol's pick-and-pop talents and ability to post up could have been a major difference in the game.
Gasol injured his hamstring in Game 3 and thinks it's just a mild strain. He's hopeful for Game 5. For the Bulls' sake, they need those aspirations to come to fruition.
Your hoops hot take of the day here -- is it possible that Paul's injury may actually help the Clippers' title hopes? Let's not get too crazy -- obviously, Los Angeles isn't getting out of the West without peak Paul.
But it's no secret that the Clippers have had a subpar bench all season, and their star's injury gave Austin Rivers a chance to hit his stride. In this Rockets series, Rivers is averaging 16 points per game on 56 percent shooting from distance. Doc's kid is emerging as a legitimate rotation piece at the perfect time, and Paul looks like he is close to 100 percent. Clearly, this is exactly how the Clippers drew it up.
Watching Game 1 against the Warriors, it looked like the Grizzlies' chances to even be competitive in the series were slim. Steve Kerr's bunch handled them with relative ease, and when Conley was interviewed on the sideline, he could hardly see out of one of his eyes.
Then Tony Allen on Klay Thompson happened, and Conley returned to outplay MVP Stephen Curry as the Grizzlies won the next two and seized a surprising 2-1 series lead. Conley is still getting his conditioning back and had a much tougher time in Game 4, but there's no question Memphis is much better with him than without him.
First-round opponents Clippers and Spurs were two of the most evenly matched teams you'll ever see in a playoff series, and that's why Splitter not being himself was so damning for San Antonio. In last year's playoffs, he slowed down the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge and Dirk Nowitzki. This year, with apologies to Aron Baynes, the Spurs had no answer for Blake Griffin, who averaged 24.1 points, 13.1 rebounds and 7.4 assists in the series.
Cavaliers head coach David Blatt revealed that Irving was dealing with a sore foot after Game 3 against the Bulls. He played 41 minutes in Game 4 but clearly wasn't himself. Irving limped up and down the court all afternoon, and Blatt struggled to find hiding places for his point guard on the defensive end.
Barring a drastic improvement, it seems that Irving is best served as a spot-up shooter for Cleveland at this point. He can still help the Cavaliers, but it's a far cry from what one of the league's best offensive players is capable of when healthy.
Speaking of Cavaliers, Love dislocated his shoulder battling for a rebound against Boston's Kelly Olynyk in the first round. Love had his ups and down with Cleveland all season, as Irving and James stole most of the positive headlines, but he still opens up an offense in ways that few others in the league can.
He is the gold standard of stretch 4's in the NBA, and though he often struggles defensively, his elite rebounding would have helped Cleveland on the glass against a big Chicago front line.
Due to the several fractures in his left hand, Wall might not return for the Wizards this postseason. His Washington squad is tied 2-2 with Atlanta and have given the top-seeded Hawks all they want.
Is it possible that, with a healthy Wall, the Wizards could have made the NBA Finals? The Hawks look vulnerable, the Bulls are inconsistent and the Cavaliers are snake-bitten with injuries.
With Otto Porter's emergence and Pierce's renaissance, the Wizards have sometimes looked like the East's best team during the playoffs. But without Wall, how far can they really go? Hopefully, for everyone's sake, he can return at some point against the Hawks.