Injuries Open Title Path for Warriors
The Golden State Warriors have had pretty good luck this year when it comes to injuries. They’ve avoided getting hurt for the most part, and now that the playoffs have arrived, their competitors are dropping like flies. The Warriors are about to face the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference semifinals; Memphis point guard Mike Conley is out indefinitely with multiple facial fractures, and while Conley remains optimistic about a quick return, his doctors say it will be four to six weeks before his face heals.
Looking beyond this series, should the Warriors win the West and make it to the NBA finals, their closest competitors for the title will be the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are also suffering from a key injury. The Cleveland Cavaliers have to face the rest of the playoffs without Kevin Love because his shoulder was dislocated in Cleveland’s first-round series against the Boston Celtics. As a result, Golden State is the clear 7/5 title favorite as we go to press, with the Cavs falling to 7/2. The two teams were tied at 11/5 going into the postseason.
Take the Week Off
Keeping a team healthy over 82 regular-season games is difficult enough. The Warriors made it through relatively unscathed with 287 man-games lost, ranking eighth among the league’s healthiest teams, and they had no significant injuries going into the postseason. Sweeping the New Orleans Pelicans out of the first round (albeit at 1-3 ATS) gives Golden State seven full days of rest and recuperation before Sunday’s series opener (3:30 PM ET, ABC) against Memphis. The Grizzlies eliminated the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, giving them three days off between rounds.
Sweeping the Pelicans also limited the amount of damage the Warriors had to absorb in what’s been a violent postseason thus far. Conley (18.6 PER), who was already playing through foot and wrist injuries, got drilled in the face by an inadvertent elbow in Game 3 of his series against the Trail Blazers. The Grizzlies have backcourt depth with Beno Udrih (15.4 PER) and Nick Calathes (12.3 PER), and they did manage to beat Portland 3-1-1 ATS, but the Blazers were ripe for the picking after running into health problems of their own.
Mixed Martial Hoops
In theory, the injury to Love (18.8 PER) was an accident, too. But Boston’s Kelly Olynyk has still been suspended for the opening game of the 2015-2016 season after he yanked Love’s arm during Game 4 of Cleveland’s 3-1 ATS first-round sweep. Later in that game, JR Smith (14.5 PER) threw a spinning backfist at Boston’s Jae Crowder, causing Crowder to sprain his knee. Smith has been suspended for the first two games of Cleveland’s Eastern semifinal.
The Cavaliers have been short-handed more often than not this year. They had 357 man-games lost during the regular season (No. 22 overall), and now they’ve lost Love for the rest of the playoffs. This is great news for the Warriors – now all they have to do is stay healthy.