Top 5 Game Changing NBA Playoff Injuries in Last 5 Years
During the NBA Playoffs every fan has a love-hate relationship with any injuries that happen—depending on the team you want to win. Losing star players to injury during the post-season might greatly affect a team’s chance at winning a championship title. Currently, the 2016 season has been no exception to its fair share of injuries. Ankles issues were prominent from Steph Curry in the Western Conference to Nicolas Batum and Isaiah Thomas in the Eastern Conference. Sudden injuries were also mixed in, with Chris Paul’s hand fracture being one of the worst. Here’s a look at some of the most devastating injuries that have shaken up the Playoffs in the last 5 years.
2016: Western Conference First Round, Clippers vs. Trail Blazers
Looking at the 2016 post-season, the Clippers take the award for the worst (double) injury so far during the Playoffs. Core players Blake Griffin and Chris Paul were both taken out of the Western Conference during Game 4 of their 1st round playoff series. The Clippers were deprived of their 2 All-Stars at the worst possible time. Paul ended up with a fractured bone in his third metacarpal in his right hand while Griffin agitated his left quadricep injury (i.e. muscles around the thigh)—he had partially torn a tendon in his thigh earlier in the season. Both Paul and Griffin were unable to continue through the rest of the Playoffs. With a depleted roster, it was a serious setback for the Clippers as it considerably derailed their advancement through the Playoffs. The Clippers continue to be plagued with bad luck as they head into the 3rd straight post-season without advancing past the second round after losing against the Trail Blazers during Games 5 and 6.
2015: NBA Finals, Cavaliers vs. Warriors
The Cavs moved onto the Second Round and eventually made it to the Final Round against the Golden State Warriors, sound familiar? The Cavs ended the first game of The Finals with Kyrie Irving suffering a terrible accident during overtime. Kevin Love, another part of Cleveland’s Big 3 (including LeBron James), was taken out of the post-season during the First Round after suffering a shoulder dislocation. Irving had already missed two earlier games during the Eastern Conference because of knee tendinitis and had recently returned to play in The Finals. Irving was driving down the court during Game 1 and while attempting to stop, felt his knee give out. Irving limped off of the court and was eventually diagnosed with a fracture of the kneecap. It was the longest he’d actively played on the court in a month, which may have contributed to the stress behind his fracture. Irving was out for the rest of the Playoffs, which was an unfortunate end to his dynamic overall season (averaged 22 points). The Cavs were down 2 All-Stars with Irving and Love no longer able to play. LeBron James pushed forward through the series for the remaining games. The Warriors accomplished what the the Cavaliers could not—staying injury-free. The Warriors eventually defeated the Cavs during Game 6. There’s no way to tell what impact Kyrie and Love would have had on these games, but they are tremendous players and their impact would certainly have been positive. Here’s to another year of seeing the Warriors vs. Cavaliers in The Finals.
2014: Western Conference Semifinals, Thunder vs. Clippers
The Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t begin their Final Round during the Western Conference at fighting strength. Serge Ibaka, a power forward, had to be subbed out of the game after suffering an injury to his leg in the 3rd quarter. He left the series clinching semifinals against The Clippers with a left calf injury. After attempting to block Chris Paul’s shot, he tangled legs with him and both fell to the ground. Up to that point, Ibaka had been a strong asset for the Thunder, shooting no worse than 40 percent from the field in any game. Many considered Ibaka to be a part of the Thunder’s “Big 3” at the time, alongside Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. A fully healthy OKC would have been a favorite in the series, especially if Ibaka had been able to return in full capacity. He did return from his injury in a limited role (29 minutes of play time) after the Thunder fell behind 0-2 against the Spurs during Game 3, a game which they ended up winning. In the end, the Spurs ended up winning the semifinals in Game 6 and advancing forward.
2013: Western Conference First Round, Thunder vs. Rockets
The Thunder’s bad luck also plagued them the previous post-season as well. All-Star Russell Westbrook was injured midway through the 2nd quarter of Game 2 against the Rockets. After a collision with Rocket’s player Patrick Beverley, Westbrook fell to the floor after banging legs with Beverley. He limped off the court in visible pain and was eventually diagnosed with a torn lateral meniscus (i.e. cartilage around the knee). It was the first time Westbrook had missed an NBA game in his career. On the other hand, it also meant that the Thunder’s lineup had never played without Westbrook. In general, the Thunder had avoided major injuries to their core players as they built themselves up to being Playoff contenders. Westbrook eventually ended up missing the remainder of the 2013 Playoffs after undergoing surgery to repair the tear. The Thunder had been the Western Conference’s number 1 seed (i.e. ranking) leading the series 2-0. A series that looked like a sweep became shaky with Westbrook gone for the rest of the season. Although the Thunder ended up advancing to the Western Conference semifinals, the Grizzlies ended up winning and advancing to the final round against the Spurs.
2012: Eastern Conference First Round, Bulls vs. 76ers
In a postgame report, TNT’s Cheryl Miller said that the packed arena went silent when reigning MVP Derrick Rose went down with an injury in Game 1. He suffered a torn ACL (i.e. anterior cruciate ligament) in his knee with 1 minute left in the game after coming down hard on his left leg after going for a layup. Rose seemed to have been back to himself after dealing with a variety of injuries (a sprained toe, sprained ankle, strained groin, and back issues) for 27 games during the 2nd half of the season. The Bulls finished the 2011-12 lockout season with an NBA best of 50 wins and 16 losses. They had captured the top overall seed in the Playoffs for the 2nd year in a row. Rose was unable to play for the rest of the post-season after undergoing knee surgery. Uncertainty formed over the Bulls’ chances of a championship title since Rose led all scorers—the Bulls were 18-9 without him that season. The Bulls had managed relatively fine when Rose was out during the season, but playing against the NBA’s top teams during the Playoffs was another challenge altogether. As a Playoff series extends into 6 or 7 games, that’s when a player like Rose could make a huge difference. The Bulls eventually ended up losing closely to the 76ers during Game 6.