Posted on: March 22, 2023, 09:45h.
Last updated on: March 22, 2023, 10:07h.
The Los Angeles Clippers are worried they could miss the playoffs after their leading scorer and shooting guard Paul George sustained a right leg injury against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The injury occurred with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter when George elevated for a rebound and collided with Lu Dort from the Thunder. George and Dort banged knees in mid-air before an awkward landing on the hardwood.
George remained on the court for several minutes and needed assistance to the locker room.
I didn’t see the play, and thought he just got hit in the face at the time,” teammate Kawhi Leonard told the LA Times.
Without George down the stretch, the Clippers lost a close game to the Thunder by the final score of 101-100.
George will undergo an MRI on Wednesday to gauge the severity of his injury and determine how many games he’ll miss.
The Clippers are 38-35 and would earn the #5 playoff seed if the season ended today. However, the back end of the Western Conference standings is clogged with eight teams that are separated by only 2.5 games.
With nine games remaining, the Clippers haven’t locked up a playoff spot. If they don’t have George in the lineup, the Clippers are in jeopardy of sliding into the Western Conference Play-In Tournament. There’s also a 22% possibility that the Clippers miss the playoffs completely, according to a prediction by FiveThirtyEight.
Another Unusual Injury for George
George missed significant time last season with a right elbow injury, and he appeared in only 31 games in 2021-22. He was sidelined with a partially torn UCL ligament in his shooting arm but decided to avoid surgery and let the ligament heal itself. The elbow injury occurred when George dove for a loose ball in a game against the Portland Trail Blazers, and Portland’s 7-foot-2 center Jusuf Nurkic landed on George’s right arm.
George looked like his old self after his right elbow properly healed in the offseason. In 56 games this season, he averaged 23.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. He improved his overall shooting percentage in all areas by averaging 45.7% from the floor, 37.1% from 3-point range, and 87.1% at the free-throw line.
George is no stranger to injuries. He missed 76 games for the Indiana Pacers in the 2014-15 season after he suffered a compound fracture of his right leg. The gruesome injury occurred in the offseason during a scrimmage while practicing with Team USA in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
The Clippers are currently short-handed because swingman Norman Powell is nursing a shoulder injury. Powell is the team’s third-best scorer, averaging 16.6 points per game, and they hope he can return this weekend or early next week.
Head coach Ty Lue could insert backup Terance Mann into the starting lineup to replace George. Mann started 35 games this season, averaging 8.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. He’s also shooting 38.6% from 3-point range.
Has the Curse of the Clippers Returned?
There’s a small segment of fans who think the Clippers are jinxed or hexed, and they will forever remain the City of Angels’ second team behind the more popular LA Lakers.
The Clippers struggled in the postseason during the 2010s, and could never reach the Western Conference finals after consistently getting knocked out in the conference semifinals or meeting their fate with a first-round upset. Fans and local media chalked up their playoff woes over the last decade to the “Curse of the Clippers.”
The Clippers finally got over the hump two postseasons ago. Led by George and Leonard, the Clippers advanced to the 2021 Western Conference finals for the first time.
Fans thought the curse had finally lifted until George went down with a knee injury on Tuesday night. Superstitious fans were quick to cite the return of the curse.
Futures Market Reacts to the Clippers
In January, the Clippers went on a 2-9 stretch and sunk below .500 with a 23-24 record. They headed into the All-Star break with a 33-28 record thanks to a five-game winning streak.
The Clippers dropped five games in a row after the break, including back-to-back overtime games, slipping to 33-33. They bounced back by winning five out of their next six games, moving into fifth place. The Clippers finally found their groove prior to George’s injury with numerous teams jockeying for playoff spots.
The Western Conference has eight teams that are separated by 2.5 games. This cluster ranges from the Clippers in fifth place to the New Orleans Pelicans in 12th place. Aside from the top three teams, the entire postseason seeding is still wide open.
The Clippers knew they were on shaky ground before George’s injury. They wanted to finish in the top six places to avoid the Western Conference Play-In Tournament, which features teams between seventh and 10th place. With George and Powell banged up, the Clippers could end up in the Play-In Tournament.
The Clippers are now +1300 odds to win the 2022-23 NBA championship, according to DraftKings. The Clippers are +600 odds to win the Western Conference, which they’ve never achieved before. They’re fourth on the futures board to win the conference, trailing the Phoenix Suns (+240), Denver Nuggets (+340), and Golden State Warriors (+550).
FiveThirtyEight predicts the Clippers will finish the regular season with a 43-39 record with a 78% chance to qualify for the playoffs. Their latest projections suggest the Clippers have a 3% chance to advance to the NBA Finals, and a 0.6% chance to win the championship.