All season, we’ve been waiting for the Western Conference playoff bloodbath to start. Unfortunately, it’s looking like a lot of the blood has been spilled too early.
The two-to-six seeds in the West should seemingly provide the most drama when the postseason begins. Memphis, Los Angeles, Portland, San Antonio and Houston are all in the midst of a wild finish to determine homecourt and matchups in the first round. The standings are tight—a recent loss knocked the Rockets from the second seed to sixth.
But most of these teams are also dealing with notable injuries that could really limit their chances of success in the playoffs.
Memphis lost the widely loved Marc Gasol to a sprained ankle against the Clippers on Saturday night. The Grizzlies were already playing without defensive ace Tony Allen and floor general Mike Conley. The Clippers performed well in the midst Blake Griffin’s midseason injury, but they only just got Jamal Crawford back from a five-week calf bruise hiatus. Crawford may not be at 100 percent in the playoffs, and the Clips need all the help they can get from their bench.
The Trail Blazers lost three-point bomber and willing defender Wesley Matthews to an Achilles’ tear, and now his replacement Arron Afflalo is dealing with a sprained shoulder that could linger into the first round. Not to be outdone, the Rockets have lost irritant point guard Patrick Beverly and Donatas Motiejunas for the playoffs, while man-child Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones also round into shape after missing huge chunks of the season.
All of this sucks. Injuries are obviously part of the game, and this year is likely no different than many others in the past. But with the East looking more and more like a one-team race (truly sorry, Atlanta) those of us hoping for a more unpredictable bracket in the West could be out of luck.
Fortunately, arguably the league’s top-two title contenders—the Spurs and Warriors—look healthy and primed for deep playoff runs. As long as that matchup looms, it would make up for a first round (or two) that end up slightly different than what we expected.
Photo via Sam Forencich/Getty/NBAE