Through one week of the 2017 NBA Playoffs, the Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors have looked as impressive as anyone. But injuries to key players could play a big role in their attempts to make deep runs in the postseason.
Both Rajon Rondo and Kevin Durant are hurt, having to miss time because of recent injuries. While the expectations for the Bulls and Warriors were vastly different at the start of the playoffs, both teams need the aforementioned players in order to reach their full potential this postseason.
Chicago released a statement ahead of Friday’s Game 3 against the Boston Celtics, saying Rondo has a fractured thumb. He doesn't need to undergo surgery, though he is out indefinitely. Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters that Rondo is in a cast and will be re-evaluated in seven to 10 days.
That timetable means there’s a good chance Rondo will miss the remainder of the series. A potential Game 6 is scheduled for April 28, and the deciding Game 7 would be played on April 30.
It’s possible that the Bulls won’t need Rondo in order to finish off the Celtics, considering they are back in Chicago after stealing the first two games of the first-round series. Rondo, however, was a major key in the Bulls taking command of the series. He’s arguably been as important as Jimmy Butler, nearly averaging a triple-double and keeping Isaiah Thomas in check in Game 2.
As the East’s No.8 seed, the Bulls probably don’t have a realistic chance of making a run to the NBA Finals. Rondo’s resurgence, however, has made Chicago look like a team that can win a few series in a weak conference.
Rajon Rondo had rebounded more Bulls' misses in this series (7) than C's bigs Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller combined (6).
— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) April 21, 2017
The Warriors are dealing with a different type of injury with Durant. While Durant has a calf strain that isn’t considered to be serious, his health might be the deciding factor in regards to which team wins the championship.
Golden State had no problem beating the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 2 with Durant on the bench, and the Warriors might be on their way to a first-round sweep. They are the odds-on favorites to win the title, though that could change if Durant is out for an extended period of time.
Durant’s recent ailment is different from the knee injury that forced him to miss more than a month in the regular season. The All-Star forward is hopeful that he’ll be able to take the court in Game 3.
“I miss being out there with them and hopefully I’m out there the next game. Speaking of that, I have a little calf injury,” Durant said in a recent YouTube video, addressing his injury. “Unfortunate that I pulled my calf in Game 1 in the third quarter. It felt good to finish the game but afterward, it tightened up on me a little bit and I was sore for the next few days.”
After last year’s playoffs, the Warriors have a reason to be skeptical regarding the health of their star player. Stephen Curry missed Game 2 and Game 3 in the Warriors’ 2016 first-round series against the Houston Rockets with an ankle injury. He returned for Game 4, spraining an MCL following 19 minutes of action. Curry missed the next four postseason games, and he did not return to his MVP form when he got back on the court.
The Warriors could have trouble in a Western Conference Finals matchup against the San Antonio Spurs or an NBA Finals matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers, if Durant is out or not 100 percent healthy. Golden State was unable to win the title a year ago without Durant, and they got rid of a few key pieces in order to sign the league’s No.2 player.
Golden State went 2-3 in their first five games without Durant, but they have since won 14 straight with the forward on the bench. Durant has played just four games since the start of March.