Health not only concern in NBA
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - April 17, 2018 - 12:00am

Golden State’s Steph Curry is recovering from an MCL sprain in the left knee and won’t likely be available until the second round of the NBA playoffs. Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, who is down with a fractured oribital bone, has cleared concussion protocols but probably won’t suit up for the Sixers until Game 3 of the Miami first round series. Boston’s Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are struck out of the playoffs while Marcus Smart, nursing a torn ligament in his thumb, may be back late in the first round or early in the second.

Houston’s Luc Mbah a Moute will sit out the first round of the Minnesota playoff series with a dislocated shoulder and sharpshooting forward Ryan Anderson won’t play until possibly Game 2 to deal with an ankle issue. New Orleans center DeMarcus Cousins isn’t suiting up until next season after recovering from surgery to repair a torn left Achilles tendon.

But despite the injuries to those key players, believe it or not, their teams won their series openers in the NBA playoffs that started last weekend. The Warriors looked unstoppable in demolishing the San Antonio Spurs, 113-92, with Curry cheering from the sidelines. The Sixers crushed the Heat, 130-103, to extend their overall win streak to 17 games, including the last 16 in the regular season. Philadelphia hit an incredible 64.3 percent clip from beyond the arc and torched Miami with 18 triples. Dario Saric, J. J. Redick and Marco Belinelli fired four apiece in the massacre.

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The Celtics struggled against Milwaukee but still came away with a 113-107 overtime victory.  Houston beat the Timberwolves, 104-101, as James Harden delivered 44 points and No. 6 New Orleans upset No. 3 Portland, 97-95 with Anthony Davis compiling 35 points and Rajan Rondo collecting 17 assists.

The key is resiliency. Health will always be a concern but the challenge for coaches is how to play through injuries. Building up a roster to cover for injury eventualities is part of the management process. Injuries can’t be an excuse for losing. It was evident in the first round of the NBA playoffs, five teams overcame serious gaps in their rotation to adjust, compensate and survive.

The Pelicans passed the toughest test of all because they took Game 1 on the road. Only one other team Indiana won away from home in eight series openers. The Pacers shocked Cleveland, 98-80, with a display of teamwork, hustle and defensive intensity. LeBron James, who has played in the last seven Finals, had 24 points and 12 assists but couldn’t get substantial production from his teammates. Indiana jumped to a 33-14 start, led by 17 at the half and blew out the Cavs before a shocked audience of 20,562 at the Quicken Loans Arena. Kyle Korver, recovering from a foot injury, and Tristan Thompson, whose girlfriend Khloe Kardashian gave birth to their baby girl last Thursday, hardly saw action in coach Ty Lue’s restructured rotation. But not to worry because the King will make things right in the end.

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In the East, top-seeded Toronto should be able to advance to the second round by eliminating Washington in five. Cleveland will rebound and dispose of Indiana in six. Milwaukee will also bounce back and take care of business against Boston. The Bucks should finish off the Celtics in six. Philadelphia could sweep the Heat or take five games to do the job. In the second round, the Cavs will end the Raptors’ dream and the Sixers will drop the Bucks. Cleveland will then take out Philadelphia and make it to the Finals.

In the West, top-seeded Houston will trounce Minnesota in five, Golden State will repulse San Antonio in six, Oklahoma will bounce Utah in seven and New Orleans will trounce Portland in six. Then, Houston will dispatch OKC in seven and Golden State will bring down New Orleans in six with the Warriors edging the Rockets in seven. That will set up a Finals showdown between Cleveland and Golden State for the fourth straight season with the Warriors to repeat as NBA champion in five.

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