The Russell Westbrook injury saga supports the old NBA adage that you’re always only an injury away from seeing your championship dreams end up in the dustbin. The Thunder went from being a more efficient version of their NBA Finals selves, to being some team Kevin Durant plays on. OKC remains a threat for any competitor, but history shows that one superstar cannot do enough to bring home the chip. Just look at LeBron.
Below is an injury update on the 2013 NBA Playoffs, ranked from most pertinent to least given today’s schedule and the series forecast. The Westbrook injury is not listed as we covered that here in greater detail.
1. Kirk Hinrich – Though a graybeard by NBA standards, Hinrich has looked spry guarding a big-bodied and offensively potent Deron Williams. Williams has had two big games in the series (going for 22 points and seven assists in Game one and 32 points and 10 assists in Game four) but has matched that with two lackluster performances. In games two and three, both of which were loses to the Bulls, Deron only posted eight and 18 points. Hinrich will be out tonight with a bruised left calf. That’s not good news for Chicago, as Hinrich does the best job of setting up their offense and containing Williams. And down 3-1, the Nets are in must-win mode.
2. Brook Lopez – The league’s most offensively competent center should play tonight. But keep in mind that he’s dealing with a sore left foot. The Nets will need everything Brook can give them, as they have their backs against the wall and a hard place: a first round boot. He’s especially dangerous as a seven-footer because he has a shooter’s touch and because he can put the ball on the floor—but an ailing foot could limit his offense tonight.
3. Jeremy Lin – Without Westbrook exploiting his deficiencies, Lin can help Houston pull off at least one win against the Thunder. Lin has been downright atrocious in this series and a chest injury is not helping his case. He missed today’s shootaround and is listed as questionable for tonight’s Game 4. I predict he will play as his dwindling reputation is on the line.
4. Keyon Dooling – A strained neck might keep Dooling out of today’s game in what will be sure to be an entertaining tiebreaker between the Clippers and Grizzlies. But considering that Memphis would have a hard time scoring against a YMCA pickup team, they absolutely need Dooling’s shooting and playmaking abilities. He’s only averaged 4.3 points and 1.0 assists in the first round, but the Grizz will need his contributions tonight.
5. Kenneth Faried – The Nuggets are looking nothing like their regular season selves. Still recovering from an ankle injury, Faried also looks like a specter of the player who won the BBVA Rising Stars MVP. Denver will need him to rehab fast if they’re to avoid elimination in the next game.
6. Dwyane Wade – The Heat treated the Bucks much like an eighteen wheeler would. Wade is still nursing knee injuries that almost put him out for the last game of the Bucks series. If the problems persist, he’ll have a hard time against a scrappy Bulls team in the next round who have proven they’re willing to play Miami like a rugby squad.
7. Tiago Splitter – San Antonio was able to put a coffin in the Laker’s abysmal season without Splitter, but they’ll need him in the next round against either Memphis or Lob City. Suffering a minor ankle injury in Game three, Splitter should be back for the opening game of round two. .