On this week’s edition of Blazer’s Edge Radio, a major topic of discussion was the rash of injuries affecting both NBA playoff hopefuls and teams jockeying for seeding. The Portland Trail Blazers have notably played the last three games without Damian Lillard—with mostly disastrous results—and have been plagued by injuries to key players throughout the season. However, the Blazers are far from the only team afflicted by the injury bug at the worst possible time, with only a few weeks remaining in the regular season.
The Memphis Grizzlies, the current eighth seed in the West, will be without starter Jaren Jackson Jr. and prominent reserve Brandon Clarke for at least two weeks (at the very earliest). Memphis currently sits three games in front of the beleaguered Blazers and 3.5 in front of the resurgent New Orleans Pelicans, bolstered by the mid-season arrival of Zion Williamson. However, it’s suddenly the healthy Pelicans who would seem to have the clearest path to the final playoff spot in the crowded Western Conference.
The Pels not only play Memphis two more times (having won the first two matchups), but also swept the season series against Portland, setting them up well in possible tiebreaker scenarios. In addition, they hold the second-easiest remaining schedule in the entire league, while the Grizzlies have the most difficult, per tankathon.
Meanwhile, out East, both the Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers face similar issues. While both will almost certainly make the playoffs barring a historic collapse, their seeding remains very much up in the air. The Pacers will be without starter Jeremy Lamb for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL, dealing a major blow to their hopes for home-court advantage, and face a likely date with either the Boston Celtics or defending champion Toronto Raptors in the first round.
Philly All-Star Ben Simmons will be sidelined for the foreseeable future with back issues. For the Sixers, the loss of Simmons could very well cost them a chance at home-court advantage in the first round as well. This would be a bigger issue for them than most, as they are 27-2 at home this season but just 9-20 on the road—the worst such mark among current playoff teams.
Which injury will have the biggest impact on the NBA playoff race? Let us know in the comments.
Catch an archived version of this week’s show here.
Tune in to Blazer’s Edge Radio LIVE every Tuesday from noon to 1 p.m. PT during the NBA season on XRAY FM. The show can be accessed at 107.1 FM in the Portland metro area, as well as worldwide on xray.fm.