Never underestimate the effect of injuries

On Friday we wrote about how the Bucks and (especially) the Bulls are on the verge of upsets. Since then, we’ve seen both teams have their series tied by the higher seed. For the Raptors, it’s simply a case of playing a great game. For the Celtics, it’s playing better but also from them hugely benefiting from the Bulls’ loss of Rajon Rondo.

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While the Bulls still have their best player in Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade, Robin Lopez and the rest of the strong supporting cast, the loss of Rondo really showed. Isaiah Thomas had his way with the Bulls these last two games and suddenly it’s looking like the Celtics will win this series after all.

After last night’s win Thomas was feeling so good about himself that he said this:

“Not one man can guard me and that’s just the confidence I have, but also my coaching staff and my teammates put me in position to be successful. No matter what other teams are doing, [Coach] Brad [Stevens] figures it out and puts me in the position to be the best player I can be, and my teammates allow me to do that, as well.”

Would he have said that if Rondo wasn’t injured? Would he have played as well in these games? Would the the series be tied?

Never underestimate the effect of injuries on the playoffs. The Rajon Rondo injury has taken the Bulls from a 2-0 lead to a 2-2 tie. his injury may have taken the Bulls from a historic first round upset to a a forgettable first round exit. Rondo isn’t the only injury that could swing a playoff series.

Take the Utah Jazz versus Los Angeles Clippers. This was supposed to be one of the best series in the playoffs as these two teams just perfectly matched up and both were healthy coming into the series. Then on one of the very first plays of the game, Rudy Gobert went down with an injury. The exciting, young Jazz team took a lethal blow. They pulled out game one, but they looked lost in both games two and three. The series went from interesting to a seemingly easy Clippers win.

Then a funny thing happened (or a sad thing happened if you are a Clippers fan), Blake Griffin got injured. Suddenly, things were evened back up. Last night the Jazz without Gobert played the Clippers without Griffin and the Jazz won. The Jazz were also without Gordon Hayward for much of the game with food poisoning, but they still pulled it out. Now the series is tied 2-2 and anything can happen.

I like the Jazz going forward as the Clippers with Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan are good, but a bit one-dimensional. That said, Paul is the best player in this series and I really don’t like going against him.

Thankfully, the rest of the playoff series thus far haven’t featured any major injuries. While an injury can swing a series (and potentially create a great betting opportunity), you never really want to see it. These are the best athletes in the world playing at the highest level, we deserve to see the best of the best.

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