NBA Teams Whose Playoff Hopes Are Being Shattered by Injuries

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 7, 2013

NBA Teams Whose Playoff Hopes Are Being Shattered by Injuries

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    When Danilo Gallinari's left knee gave out, it may have taken the Denver Nuggets' playoff hopes right along with it.

    But Gallinari's gruesome injury certainly isn't the only instance of a big-name player's body failing him this season. And the Nuggets aren't the first club to see their postseason dreams dashed because of rotten luck in the health department.

    Denver is still a sure playoff team, as will be the case with the majority of the other teams we discuss here. But Gallo's torn ACL turned the volume way down on the Nuggets' chances to make any noise this spring.

    Some clubs, like the Chicago Bulls, have played the whole season with dampened expectations because  injuries to stars like Derrick Rose have put something of a ceiling on their potential playoff success. Others, like the Los Angeles Lakers, have seen nagging maladies pile up at an alarming rate, sapping the strength from what might otherwise have been a highly potent lineup.

    Injuries are part of the game, and significant ones to valuable players (or, in the case of Rose and the Bulls, Most Valuable Players) are inevitable. But neither of those truisms take the sting out of watching a star go down.

    Here's a rundown of some of the teams whose playoff hopes are being shattered by injuries.

San Antonio Spurs

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    Manu Ginobili is no stranger to the trainer's table. After missing 32 contests last season, the Argentine guard's 2012-13 campaign will end after just 59 games.

    And thanks to a hamstring injury, his playoff future is now in doubt:

    Injury Update: Ginobili out 3-4 weeks (strained hamstring), Duncan (sore knee) and Leonard (sore knee) out tonight. j.mp/13LH9NL

    — San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) April 1, 2013

    With an average of just 11.9 points on 42 percent shooting, it might be tempting to assume that the San Antonio Spurs no longer need Ginobili's contributions to make yet another playoff run. But when healthy, the veteran guard provides the kind of leadership and fearlessness that matters more in the postseason.

    Plus, his 4.6 assists in just 23 minutes per game make him one of the Spurs' most valuable facilitators.

    There's a chance Ginobili will be healthy enough to hit the ground running when the postseason begins, but it feels more likely that his strained hamstring won't be quite right until sometime in the second round.

    Even teams as disciplined and deep as the Spurs need all hands on deck during the postseason. If Ginobili can't play at a relatively high level, San Antonio's championship chances will suffer a serious blow.

    And if the shin injury afflicting Tony Parker is even remotely serious, the Spurs might be looking at a first-round exit.

Boston Celtics

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    When the Boston Celtics announced they'd lost Rajon Rondo to a torn ACL on Jan. 27, it sure seemed like their shot at a playoff run was all but gone.

    After all, the Celtics' roster was already composed of aging stars like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. It stood to reason that the absence of one of the team's only dynamic, young players would prove too much to overcome.

    But then the gritty Celtics ran off a seven-game winning streak that included victories over the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers, Nuggets and Lakers.

    Since then, spotty play and the additional absence of Garnett, who missed two weeks before returning to action on April 7, has Boston looking like a team that'll be happy to simply crawl into the playoffs.

    Boston has engineered unlikely postseason runs before, but the combination of nagging injuries to their older cornerstones and a catastrophic one to their young leader make it hard to envision another surge to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Chicago Bulls

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    Drawing only from the Chicago Bulls who aren't currently fit enough to play, you could put together a lineup capable of handily beating the ones who are.

    Derrick Rose, Marco Belinelli, Rip Hamilton, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah are all currently sidelined for the Bulls.

    Amazingly, Chicago has won two straight and is showing no signs of giving in under the strain of playing without so many key pieces. In fact, if the Bulls hang tough and the Brooklyn Nets falter even slightly, Chicago could easily make up the one-and-a-half game deficit that currently stands between it and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

    Plus, Noah and Belinelli are both currently listed as "day-to-day," and Rose continues to look good in his pregame workouts. Those might not sound like encouraging signs, but the bedraggled Bulls will take what they can get at the end of a brutally trying season.

    Ultimately, though, the continued absence of Rose and the ongoing concerns with Gibson and Noah make the Bulls little more than a long shot to do much in the postseason.

    And that's a real shame, as the Bulls could be a legitimate title contender if fully healthy.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    In some ways, the Lakers are fortunate that they've suffered so many injuries this season. Otherwise, the team would have to face all of the criticism toward its horrible defense and total lack of an offensive plan without a good excuse.

    But because L.A. has suffered significant injuries to every member of its original starting five, there have been plenty of ways to explain the team's disappointing play this year.

    With the playoffs around the corner and the Lakers slipping in and out of the No. 8 spot on what's seemed like a daily basis, it appears that L.A.'s injuries will either make it a first-round pushover or keep it out of the postseason altogether.

    Steve Nash's bothersome right hip and hamstring have cost him three straight games, Metta World Peace is out for the regular season after knee surgery, Pau Gasol continues to look slowed by a combination of tendonitis and a torn plantar fascia and Antawn Jamison is fighting through a wrist injury.

    In addition, Kobe Bryant is struggling with bone spurs in his ankle and Dwight Howard has been hampered by a partially torn labrum and a perpetually recovering back.

    Other than that, though, the Lakers have been in great health.

    Teams as old and broken down as the Lakers don't typically enjoy sudden recoveries at the end of grueling seasons. Because L.A. doesn't figure to magically erase its mounting list of maladies, its playoff hopes are really just wishful thinking at this point.

Denver Nuggets

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    After putting together a quietly brilliant 15-game winning streak and earning some buzz as a sleeper contender for an NBA title, the Nuggets watched Danilo Gallinari hit the deck after tearing his left ACL on April 4.

    Though Denver's depth has been a big part of its late-season run, there's no avoiding how devastating Gallinari's injury is to the team's playoff hopes.

    According to 82games.com, the Nuggets are 5.8 points per 100 possessions more efficient on offense when Gallinari is on the floor. And on the other end, the team's defense has held opponents to 3.1 fewer points per 100 possessions when Gallo has been in the lineup.

    His absence is going to hurt.

    In addition to Gallinari's injury, the Nuggets are also dealing with Ty Lawson's torn plantar fascia, which could keep him out for the remainder of the regular season.

    Denver's unusual style, fast pace and deep bench made it something of an unlikely championship threat. But now that Gallinari is out and Lawson is struggling to return, the Nuggets' chances to make a playoff run seem remote.