Injuries again playing prominent role in NBA playoffs

Cavs, Wizards and Rockets in Control
Cavs, Wizards and Rockets in Control

The NBA playoffs have picked up right where the regular season left off - with key players fighting to stay healthy when they are needed most.

Injuries threaten to play a pivotal role in several first-round series, including all three Game 2s tonight - Spurs at Clippers, Nets at Hawks and Trail Blazers at Grizzlies.

The defending champions are missing big man Tiago Splitter, and his replacement Aron Baynes was exploited by the Clippers in their Game 1 victory. Tony Parker is also ailing, and the Spurs were hoping to take advantage of an extra day between Games 1 and 2 to get them both on the mend.

The Hawks lost defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha just before the playoffs after a confrontation with police in New York City and Al Horford dislocated the pinky finger on his right hand in Game 1, but plans to play through it.

And the banged-up Blazers hope to get Arron Afflalo back from a strained right shoulder that kept him out for the previous six games while LaMarcus Aldridge continues to play through a torn ligament in his left thumb for the last three months.

"The intent and purpose for me being on this team this season with all the injuries we've had was to help us win and win big," Afflalo said. "So I wasn't brought here to watch. I wasn't brought here just to play a small role, and obviously I felt I could've helped the team ... I'm doing what I can to get healthy."

The Grizzlies are on the other side - at least somewhat.

Memphis got Tony Allen (hamstring) back in the lineup and Mike Conley is playing with a sprained right foot. Both played well in their dominating Game 1 win.

"Hopefully they keep getting better and the time in between is nice and that should help," coach David Joerger said.

In other series, Chicago's Nikola Mirotic is hoping to play in Game 3 in Milwaukee on Thursday despite a strained left quadriceps and swollen left knee; Dallas forward Chandler Parsons tweaked a knee injury that bothered him at the end of the regular season and in Game 1 against Houston.

Here's a look at the three NBA playoff games Wednesday (all times EDT):


Spurs at Clippers, Clippers lead 1-0, Game 2, 10:30 p.m. TNT

Blake Griffin and Chris Paul led the way for the Clippers in Game 1, but Jamal Crawford's efficient play off the bench was huge to help balance things out for Los Angeles.

Crawford scored 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting, including 3 of 4 on 3-pointers to provide the all-important scoring bridge the Clippers needed when Paul went to the bench for a rest. The Clippers' second unit has been a weakness for much of the season, especially at point guard behind Paul. But if Crawford, one of the league's slickest ball-handlers at combo guard, can provide that type of lift on a regular basis, the champs could be in trouble.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Tiago Splitter could see more than the 10 minutes he played in Game 1, which would be a huge help to the overmatched Aron Baynes, who was dunked on twice by Griffin in an explosive performance.


Nets at Hawks, Hawks lead 1-0, Game 2, 7 p.m. NBATV

The Nets could get an emotional boost from the return of Mirza Teletovic. He was ruled out for the season on Jan. 23 with blood clots in his lungs, but coach Lionel Hollins said on Tuesday that he would be listed as probable for Game 2.

Teletovic averaged 8.5 points and 4.4 rebounds for the Nets in 44 games this season, but Hollins said his upgrade did not mean that he would play for certain.

Any little bit could help a Brooklyn team that appeared overmatched by the top-seeded Hawks for much of Game 1. Veteran Alan Anderson figures to get more playing time over youngster Markel Brown in Game 2 as the Nets try to keep up with Atlanta's superior ball movement.

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer figures to get a warm welcome from the home crowd in his first game since being named NBA coach of the year. Budenholzer spent 16 years as Gregg Popovich's assistant in San Antonio, and he got emotional while talking about Popovich's influence as he accepted the award.

"This award has a permanent spot on his desk in San Antonio," Budenholzer said. "He just shares it around the league every couple of years."


Trail Blazers at Grizzlies, Grizzlies lead 1-0, Game 2, 8 p.m. TNT

This is the eighth postseason trip for Memphis, and the Grizzlies never have taken a 2-0 lead in a series. It's also a detail they insisted Tuesday they hadn't heard about before.

"But we like to be the first here in Memphis to try to do something different here, that hadn't been done since I've been here," Grizzlies guard Mike Conley said. "To go up 2-0 would be great for us, and it's going to be tough with the way that they're going to adjust."

The biggest adjustment Portland can make is trying to hit shots. LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard combined to shoot 18 of 55 in losing Game 1 100-86. The Trail Blazers had their worst shooting performance of the season as Memphis set a postseason mark for holding Portland to 33.7 percent. Lillard was 5 of 21, missing all six of his 3-point attempts.

"Four out of the first five misses were halfway down, so they felt good," Lillard said. "I felt good out there. I think it was just a game where we got outplayed and we weren't good enough offensively or defensively to win the game."

Memphis has won 10 of the last 11 overall against Portland.