On Friday night time, the seventh-seeded Dallas Mavericks would possibly’ve misplaced a complete lot extra than simply Sport 3 of their first-round collection in opposition to the second-seeded Clippers. A the three:58 mark of the third quarter, with the Mavericks trailing by 13, Doncic rolled his left ankle in fairly ugly vogue. He left the court docket and instantly hobbled into the tunnel, hopping on one leg. Doncic re-taped the ankle and re-entered the sport to start out the fourth quarter, but it surely did not final lengthy. The ache was an excessive amount of. 

“It isn’t that dangerous,” Doncic mentioned after Dallas’ 130-122 loss. “Actually, I had luck that it was my left ankle. It isn’t my proper.”

Luka has certainly had hassle along with his proper ankle, having sprained it twice earlier this season earlier than tweaking it once more when he slipped throughout Sport 1 of this collection. So yeah, I suppose there’s technically a shiny aspect right here should you’re decided to shun the trail of pessimism. Doncic may have an MRI on Saturday. Possibly he’ll have the ability to go in Sport 4 on Sunday. 

However he completely won’t be 100%, or in all probability anyplace near it. And that’s wildly irritating. The Mavericks, in case you hadn’t observed, are giving the Clippers every thing they’ll deal with. They’re down 2-1, however they’ve needed to play main components of two video games with out their two greatest gamers (I’ll by no means recover from how bogus the Kristaps Porzingis ejection was in Sport 1). 

There’s a very believable alternate actuality wherein the Mavericks are up 2-1 on this collection. As a substitute, the Clippers are within the driver’s seat. And maybe that is the place they need to be. Maybe they’re the higher workforce. I am not satisfied of that. Assuming well being, at this specific second in time I might simply argue that Luka and Porzingis are a greater duo than Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the latter of which is struggling mightily on this collection. With out Luka at someplace close to 100%, although, the Mavericks haven’t any shot. 

And so, robbed of a real take a look at for the Clippers, what we’re left with is is a narrative as acquainted as it’s irritating — yet one more playoff collection, in yet one more postseason, that may largely be outlined by an harm. Everyone knows accidents are a part of sports activities. They can not be averted. Subsequent man up. We have heard all of it, and but they only proceed to pile up for among the most pivotal gamers in among the most vital collection. 

There’s an previous saying that one of the best capacity is availability, and man is that wanting increasingly more true. It is gotten to the purpose the place we’d must forego recognizing the NBA Finals winner because the champion and simply engrave “healthiest workforce” on the trophy. You concentrate on the final 5 champions — there is a evident harm asterisk by 4 them. 

In 2015, the Cavs needed to play the Warriors within the Finals with out Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. In 2016, the Warriors misplaced Steph Curry to a sprained MCL within the first spherical and he was by no means 100% thereafter. In 2018, the Celtics needed to play the Cavaliers within the East Finals with out Kyrie and Gordon Hayward, and so they nonetheless took them to seven video games. 

That very same yr, the Warriors had been on the ropes within the West Finals, down 3-2 to Houston earlier than Chris Paul ripped his hamstring. Final season, the Raptors gained their first title in historical past, and just about everybody agrees it would not have occurred had Kevin Durant’s not torn his calf after which his Achilles tendon. Then Klay Thompson blew his ACL for good measure. 

This yr, it is extra of the identical — to say nothing of a worldwide pandemic. Russell Westbrook has but to play in Houston’s first-round collection with a quad pressure. If he isn’t again at near 100% past the primary spherical, we’ll possible by no means actually understand how far this Rockets workforce really might’ve taken this small-ball experiment. 

Simply when it appeared just like the Celtics had been changing into a risk, Hayward suffered a Grade 3 ankle sprain and is probably going out for at the least 4 weeks. Boston ought to be positive for at the least the primary spherical. On Friday they went up 3-0 on the Sixers, who, by the way, are taking part in with out Ben Simmons, who partially tore his kneecap within the bubble and just lately had surgical procedure. 

The Raptors are taking part in a Nets workforce with out Kyrie and Durant. 

Meawhile, the top-seeded Lakers are tied 1-1 with the Portland Path Blazers, who’ve misplaced Zach Collins (ankle surgical procedure) for the season, and now Damian Lillard has a dislocated finger ons his left hand. Lillard will possible play in Sport 3 on Saturday, however like Doncic, he will not be 100% if he does. So now we’ll possible find yourself having to wonder if the Blazers really might’ve pulled off this upset with a fully-healthy Liillard. That is to say nothing of the fractured decrease again with which C.J. McCollum is taking part in. 

There’s simply no different method to say this: Accidents are absolutely the worst. I do not know if I simply by no means paid this a lot consideration or if they’ve gotten extra frequent in recent times, however we’re not speaking about nagging accidents for peripheral gamers. We’re speaking about main, typically season-ending setbacks for superstars. 

All of us have this pure, romantic thought of the best athletes on the planet getting collectively on a court docket and discovering out who really is one of the best of one of the best. No opinions. No asterisks. Only a ball, two hoops and a scoreboard. But it surely simply by no means works out that method. As a result of there’s all the time an enormous group of men over on the aspect of the court docket on crutches. And the followers and gamers are left to say, till the tip of time, “We might’ve gained if …” 

It seems like an excuse. But it surely is not. It is a actuality. A harsh one. And it is rearing its ugly head once more on this postseason. Who is aware of if the 2015 Cavs would’ve overwhelmed Golden State had Irving and Love been wholesome. Who is aware of if the Warriors would’ve even gotten to the Finals in the event that they did not face hobbled groups in each spherical. Possibly the Warriors would’ve gained Video games 6 and seven in opposition to Houston in 2018 even with Chris Paul. Possibly the Raptors would’ve overwhelmed a fully-healthy Warriors workforce final season. 

However that is the purpose. No person will ever know who one of the best workforce really was. The groups, the gamers, the followers, everybody was robbed of a pure, clear reply to that basic query. It is speculated to be the athletes who play that outline successful and shedding. However in fact, championships extra typically come all the way down to those who do not. 

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