LeBron James lost his Hollywood co-star, Anthony Davis, to knee and groin problems and then lost a series in the first round for the first time in his NBA career. The Miami Heat, who stretched James and his Los Angeles Lakers to six games before losing last year’s NBA Finals, were swept by the Milwaukee Bucks.
It was only two of the big basket balls from an initial playoff round that did throw a lot at us.
Early outings that limited disappointing seasons for Boston and Portland led to coaching changes for both teams the next day. In the Celtics’ wild case, Brad Stevens will hire his replacement. Stevens was promoted from coach to president of basketball operations and replaced outgoing CEO Danny Ainge, though Stevens has no experience in the office.
Disgusting fan behavior as spectators have been allowed to participate in games in greater numbers and the ongoing accidents we have seen for several star players through this harrowing pandemic season created unwanted headlines. Home travel advantage, even with fans left in every building, never meant less, as road teams went a stubborn 21-22 across eight series. The road team, in an NBA first, actually won the first six games of the Dallas Mavericks’ series against the Los Angeles Clippers – after the Clippers strategically lost their last two regular season games against Houston and Oklahoma City to lock in an allegedly favorable matchup with the Mavericks.
It was, in short, a bonkers round 1. The Kawhi Leonard-led Clippers brought it to a conclusion by finally finishing the witch on the home teams and beating Luka Doncic and the Mavericks, 126-111, in Sunday’s game 7, but the many twists have left the Nets and their polarizing star trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving as the NBA’s hub.
Net and league health rather both tissues as nodes.
We still do not have a clear favorite in these playoffs, even after the pitch was halved from 16 teams to eight, mainly because injuries – like Harden’s ongoing problems with his right hamstring – do not allow it. Some of the uncertainty stems from all the news facing prognosticators, with defending champion Lakers expelled immediately, and next month’s NBA Finals ready to be the first without James or Golden State’s Stephen Curry since 2010. Still, the uncertain availability of various stars remains the biggest obstacle to finding an obvious team to beat.
“It’s going to be the battle against the strongest at the end of this thing,” Philadelphia 76ers Coach Doc Rivers said Sunday morning.
Less than two hours later, Philadelphia announced that its star center, Joel Embiid, would start in the Sixers’ second-round opener against Atlanta despite a small lateral meniscus in Embiid’s right knee. Embiid maintained the tear in Philadelphia’s series in the first round against Washington, joining the Lakers’ Davis, Phoenix’s Chris Paul (shoulder) and Dallas’s Doncic (neck) on the list of tent performers who with varying degrees of success have tried to play through a significant injury this NBA by season.
“It’s not easy to play on a torn meniscus, but it’s okay,” said Embiid, who rumbled with an impressive 39 points and 9 rebounds in a 128-124 Game 1 loss.
There is more. Utah All-Star guard Mike Conley exacerbated a persistent hoarding injury in the Jazz’s first round series with Memphis that could compromise his availability in the second round against the Clippers. Then Harden faced a similar fate on Saturday just 43 seconds into Game 1 of the Nets’ highly anticipated second-round showdown with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, exacerbating a right-handed hamstring injury that forced Harden to miss 20 of 21 games in during a stretch in April and Kan.
It is the continuation of a depressing trend that plagued the second half of the regular season. After about 30 suspensions in the first half, as coronavirus outbreaks were common as teams struggled to isolate themselves from the virus while playing an indoor sport in the midst of a pandemic, star-struck injuries have been the dominant story since the Lakers lost Davis ( Achilles’) and calf) after a start at 21-7 and James (ankle) about a month later.
In April interview with Time magazine, Adam Silver, NBA commissioner, said that “while injuries are terrible and this is a problem we desperately want to solve,” there is nothing in the league’s data “that suggests that our injury rate is in any way in line with our last five seasons. ”Several teams I have consulted nonetheless refused to be deterred from believing that this season’s combination of schedule intensity and travel requirements after such a short lap from last season along with the daily coronavirus test and various health and safety protocols cut into players’ rest periods have increased the risk of injury.
Spying injury-related issues thus persist. Like:
Can the Sixers live up to their No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference when Embiid is potentially compromised?
Would the Suns, given the weak condition of Paul’s right shoulder, really have eliminated the Lakers in six games if Davis did not lack full strength?
How will Nikola Jokic, who is soon expected to be named the league’s most valuable player, lead the Denver Nuggets past Phoenix and back to the Western Conference Finals without the help of Jamal Murray, who maintained a knee-jerk season finale in April?
Perhaps most meaningful: What kind of down-the-road costs could the strain in this hurried, compressed season inflict on those franchise players who shoulder the heaviest burdens?
“I don’t know if people get the question you asked,” Rivers said. “There is so much stress on these guys. Some guys log heavier minutes – they need to do more. ”
They certainly get it in Brooklyn, where talk of who is not playing has been inevitable all season, an annoying static that regularly intrudes on the exciting opportunities. Impressive as the Nets were after their sudden setback in Game 1 against the Bucks and pulled away to a 115-107 victory, Nets coach Steve Nash said he was “heartbroken” for Harden. It was just the latest illustration of what keeps many NBA observers from branding the nets as inevitable champions: For all the ridiculously offensive gifts that Durant, Harden, and Irving possess, we just have not seen enough of them to approve them. without reservation and disclaimer.
The Nets’ Big Three shared the pitch for just 202 minutes of the regular season. They logged 130 promising minutes together in a five-game knockout by the Celtics, who won those stints by 66 points before Harden pulled off the floor inside the opening minute against Milwaukee. Harden has been ruled out for Monday’s game 2 against the Bucks at the Barclays Center with the team calling the right hoarding tightness.
“We were very thrown overboard this year, so we were kind of well trained for this event,” Nash said.
No coach on the ground has the offensive options available to Nash, but the situation he faces this season is sadly all too common.