Injuries have been the talk of the 2012 NBA playoffs with big names falling prey to the injury bug. Most of the instances have stemmed from non-contact, with players falling victim to unfortunate circumstances. During this truncated, lockout-compressed season, injuries have greatly altered the outlook of this year’s postseason. It’s bad enough to be down 3-1 in a first-round series, but the latest injuries have all but sealed the fate of the Chicago Bulls, the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics.
Down three games to one to the Philadelphia 76ers, Chicago is one loss from becoming only the fifth No. 1 seed in the NBA history to be eliminated by an eighth seed. Derrick Rose, who missed over a third of the Bulls’ games this season, with a variety of injuries to his back, foot, ankle and groin, was on his way to a triple-double in Game 1 of their first-round series with the Sixers, when he suddenly collapsed after performing one of his signature-yet-explosive and aggressive hop steps to the basket. The diagnosis: Rose suffered a torn ACL with 1:20 left in the game while Chicago had a 12-point lead. The result? He is out for the year.
The reigning league MVP has been relegated to offering support, as he delivered the game ball before opening tip of Game 2. To make matters worse for the Bulls, Rose’s teammate, starting center Joakim Noah has also been forced to pump up his colleague’s while wearing a suit and a walking boot, as he performed from the Bulls bench during Game 4, last Sunday. Noah sprained his left ankle as he fought Sixers’ swingman Andre Iguodala in Game 3. He had to leave Wells Fargo Center on crutches and is uncertain for Game 5. Without the offensive prowess of Rose and the defensive tour de force of Noah attacking the boards, the Bulls, who were once favored to win it all this season, roster of role players are no match for the Sixers healthy roster of role players.
Like D. Rose, Knicks rookie Iman Shumpert, who started 17 games in place of the injured Jeremy Lin, went down with his own knee injury (torn ACL) in the Knicks 100-67 Game 1 loss to the Miami Heat. With Lin gone, the Knicks were already short on point guards before Shumpert’s injury, placing the ball handling duties squarely on veteran guard Baron Davis’ shoulders. But in New York’s Game 4 victory over the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Davis unfortunately went down to a dislocated patella to become the latest casualty of this treacherous first round for the Knicks.
Davis was dribbling down the court when his knee appeared to buckle, forcing the 33-year-old to collapse. He was later carried off the court on a stretcher and is expected to miss about a year with a partial tear of patella tendon in his right knee. Now, New York’s odds of overcoming a 3-1 deficit to Miami will rest with Carmelo Anthony and fire extinguisher vandal Amar’e Stoudemire. Veteran guard, Mike Bibby, will have to step up at point for the Knicks to have any chance of competing for Game 5 on Wednesday.
After a stellar performance in Game 2 and 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics captain Paul Pierce suffered a left knee injury during the shoot around before Game 4. Pierce was able to suit up, but aggravated the knee in the first half, playing a mere 16 minutes and 37 seconds, but still chipped in a game-high 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting to spearhead Boston’s 101-79 rout of the Hawks. The Truth later admitted that his knee felt sore and tender and that his status moving forward is uncertain– though he hopes to play in Game 5 in Atlanta on Tuesday. The Celtics lead the best-of-seven series 3-1, and will look to close things out on tonight. Without their captain, the C’s aging roster will have to depend on the other members of the Big Four - Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen –who is coming off a server ankle injury– and newcomer Avery Bradley –who injured his shoulder in Game 3– to carry the load. With or without Pierce the Celtics will probably advance to the next round, but if Pierce is unable to compete, their chances of another title run is in jeopardy.
While injuries have altered the balance of power in the East, the Western Conference has remained relatively unscathed. All-Star forward Caron Butler fractured his left hand in Game 1 of the Los Angeles Clippers series with Memphis, but his injury has not affected Lob City for pushing the Grizzlies to the brink of elimination. With the Eastern Conference battered –except for the favored Miami Heat– teams in the West may have a clear path to the championship. But the way the postseason has played out, don’t bet on it.