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Tracking the key injuries in the NBA playoffs

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Warriors vulnerable in title defense? (1:42)

"The Target".... Coming off 2 championships in 3 years the Warriors remain in the crosshairs of all NBA teams. With Steph Curry out for the first round, the challenge is real for the Bay. Scoop Jackson helps us understand the grind they face. (1:42)

This NBA season has been marked by several notable, critical injuries. Here's a look at the most important ones to watch for each team in the postseason.


Eastern Conference

Toronto Raptors: Fred VanVleet

  • Timetable: VanVleet, who had been day-to-day with right shoulder soreness, was cleared to play in Tuesday's Game 2 but lasted less than three minutes. He missed Games 3 and 4.

  • Seriousness: medium

  • Situation: VanVleet had to miss Game 1 with his shoulder injury, which led to more minutes for Delon Wright. VanVleet returned for Game 2 but played just 2:49. Expect Toronto to lean more on Wright again until VanVleet is healthy.

Boston Celtics: Kyrie Irving (and Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, Daniel Theis)

  • Timetable: Irving will miss the playoffs after undergoing left knee surgery. Hayward is unlikely to return this season from a left ankle injury. Theis is out for the season following left knee surgery. Smart, who has been out since undergoing thumb surgery in March, will be reevaluated on Tuesday and is hoping to be cleared for a potential Game 6.

  • Seriousness: very high

  • Kevin Pelton on Irving: The Celtics should still be favored to win their first-round matchup against the Bucks. Milwaukee has actually been outscored this season, despite a winning record, so the short-handed Celtics have been comfortably better without Irving before accounting for home-court advantage in the series.

Cleveland Cavaliers: George Hill (and Kyle Korver)

  • Timetable: Hill sprained his left ankle on March 30 and returned April 9 after missing four games. Hill missed Game 4 due to a sore back. Korver had right foot soreness and last appeared in a game March 19 before returning April 3.

  • Seriousness: medium

  • Situation: Hill has started every game he has played as a Cavalier this season, while Korver started in three appearances before taking a bereavement leave. Korver returned in April to his more familiar bench role. Hill lasted only 30 seconds in the fourth quarter of Game 3 in Indiana, and his absence led to a start for Jose Calderon -- Calderon's first in the postseason in four years.

Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid

  • Timetable: Embiid had surgery to repair an orbital bone fracture on March 31 and missed the Sixers' first two playoff games. Embiid returned to the lineup in Philadelphia's Game 3 win in Miami on April 19.

  • Seriousness: medium

  • Kevin Pelton on Embiid: The timing of Embiid's injury is obviously difficult for him and the Sixers, with their multiyear rebuilding process finally bearing playoff fruit.

Indiana Pacers: Trevor Booker

  • Timetable: After spraining his right ankle, Booker missed a win at Sacramento on March 29 but has been back in the lineup since then.

  • Seriousness: very low

  • Situation: Booker is Indiana's second big man off the bench, behind starters Thaddeus Young and Myles Turner and top backup Domantas Sabonis. Any time that Booker misses is filled sparingly by first-round rookie T.J. Leaf.

Washington Wizards: John Wall

  • Timetable: Wall returned to action March 31 after missing more than two months because of a left knee injury.

  • Seriousness: medium

  • Situation: Wall's return decreases the seriousness of the situation. Wall was able to play 33 minutes in his first game back, while fill-in starter Tomas Satoransky's role in the rotation over the suspended Jodie Meeks is secure.

Miami Heat: Dion Waiters

  • Timetable: Waiters underwent season-ending ankle surgery on Jan. 23.

  • Seriousness: low

  • Situation: The Heat are used to playing without Waiters and otherwise enter the playoffs at full strength. Tyler Johnson has established himself as the starting shooting guard, while Wayne Ellington and midseason trade acquisition Dwyane Wade are the backup guards.

Milwaukee Bucks: John Henson

  • Timetable: Henson missed Game 3 with a back injury and did not play in Game 4. He played 37 minutes in a Game 2 loss at Boston.

  • Seriousness: medium

  • Situation: The Bucks have already struggled to contain Boston on second-chance points, and Milwaukee's other centers, Tyler Zeller and Thon Maker, combined to play only 11 minutes in the first two games of the quarterfinals. Zeller got the starts in Games 3 and 4, but Maker has made the most of the extra playing time.

Western Conference

Houston Rockets: Luc Mbah a Moute (and Ryan Anderson)

  • Timetable: Mbah a Moute is likely to miss the first round, sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Mbah a Moute left the Rockets' second-to-last game of the season with a dislocated shoulder, on April 10. He missed 15 games with a similar injury earlier this season. There's no timetable for his return. Anderson sprained his left ankle on April 5 and missed the last four regular-season games, along with Games 1 and 2 against Minnesota. Anderson returned to action in Game 3, scoring 12 points in 18:29.

  • Seriousness: medium

  • Situation: Mbah a Moute averaged nearly 26 minutes per night for Mike D'Antoni's squad this season, even starting 15 games. He's a key part of a Houston second unit that has smothered opponents, and his absence could leave the Rockets' bench a little thin, even as rotations tighten in the postseason. Anderson was the starter at PF to begin the season, but he did not start at all after the All-Star break and played 20-plus minutes only four times since the break.

Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry

  • Timetable: Three weeks (from March 24) for Curry's left knee Grade 2 MCL sprain. Curry will be re-evaluated again on April 21.

  • Seriousness: high

  • Kevin Pelton on Curry: Players have not shot as well from 3-point range after returning from a Grade 2 MCL sprain as expected. After suffering a Grade 1 MCL sprain (a less severe injury) in the 2016 playoffs, Curry was, in fact, less accurate on 3s when he returned, shooting 40.2 percent compared to 45.4 percent during the regular season. But the larger issue for Curry was inside the arc; he shot 56.6 percent on 2s during the regular season and just 48.5 percent in the playoffs. Of course, every player and every injury is unique, so the average performance of all players with the same injury is only a guide to what we can expect. But the broader history suggests that a repeat of 2016 is unlikely. Golden State should expect to get Curry back at something close to full strength.

Portland Trail Blazers: Maurice Harkless (and Evan Turner)

  • Timetable: Two weeks (from March 28) for Harkless' left knee surgery. He returned to action April 17 in Game 2 vs. New Orleans. Turner missed Portland's Game 3 loss in New Orleans due to a toe contusion suffered in Game 2. Turner returned in Game 4, but Harkless missed Game 4 due to his knee.

  • Seriousness: medium

  • Situation: Harkless had scored in double figures in five of his past six games before getting shut down. His injury moved Turner into the starting lineup and opens up more minutes for Pat Connaughton as a rotation wing. Harkless missed the final nine games of the regular season and was ruled out of the Blazers' Game 1 loss to the Pelicans on Saturday. However, he returned for Game 2 on Tuesday and played 27 minutes, scoring 11 points. Harkless took back his starting role in Game 3 with Turner out, playing 26 minutes. The Pelicans ended Portland's season with a first-round sweep.

San Antonio Spurs: Kawhi Leonard

  • Timetable: Leonard last played on Jan. 13 and has no timetable to return from a right quadriceps injury.

  • Seriousness: high

  • Zach Lowe on Leonard: Without Leonard, the math of the Spurs' midrange-heavy shot selection works against them. Their shot profile hasn't budged from last season. With Leonard playing like an MVP in 2016-17, they outperformed their expected field goal percentage -- based on shot location, shooters and defender proximity -- by the fifth-largest margin in the league, per Second Spectrum. This season, they are shooting almost exactly as expected, and it isn't good enough -- especially since they don't gobble up free throws or offensive rebounds at a high rate. (Also: Why doesn't Danny Green play a little more?) The Spurs built this team to play a certain style, and without their foundational talent, they can't play it well enough to win at a high level.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Jimmy Butler

  • Timetable: Butler underwent meniscus surgery on his right knee Feb. 25. He returned to action April 6 in Los Angeles. Butler is also playing with minor wrist and ankle injuries.

  • Seriousness: high

  • Situation: The Timberwolves put Nemanja Bjelica in the starting lineup at small forward and moved Andrew Wiggins to shooting guard after Butler's injury, and Minnesota went 8-9 in Butler's stead. Butler's absence led to a strict eight-man rotation for the Timberwolves, with Jamal Crawford taking on a larger role. Butler's return allowed coach Tom Thibodeau to use a nine-man rotation.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Andre Roberson (and Paul George)

  • Timetable: Roberson had season-ending surgery to repair a ruptured patellar tendon in his left knee on Jan. 28. George was questionable for Wednesday's Game 2 against the Jazz after suffering a bruised hip in Game 1, but he started and played 43 minutes.

  • Seriousness: medium

  • Situation: The Thunder have the NBA's 18th-ranked defensive efficiency rating since Roberson's injury, compared to the No. 5 defense at the time of the injury. Oklahoma City is now starting midseason buyout acquisition Corey Brewer at shooting guard. George shot just 6-for-21 but played a team-high 43 minutes in Game 2, so his hip injury does not appear as though it will keep him out of the lineup.

Utah Jazz: Donovan Mitchell

  • Timetable: Mitchell briefly left Game 1 with a left foot contusion but returned. He was questionable for Wednesday's Game 2 at Oklahoma City but started and played 43 minutes.

  • Seriousness: low

  • Situation: Mitchell's injury was considered minor and he showed no ill effects in Game 2, playing 43 minutes and scoring a game-high 28 points.

New Orleans Pelicans: DeMarcus Cousins

  • Timetable: Cousins had season-ending surgery to repair a ruptured left Achilles tendon on Jan. 31.

  • Seriousness: high

  • Zach Lowe on Cousins: Anthony Davis has seamlessly absorbed more ballhandling responsibility since Cousins' season-ending injury. He has averaged about seven drives per 100 possessions in that stretch, up from about four before then, per Second Spectrum tracking data. Davis isn't going to win the MVP, and he shouldn't. This is James Harden's season. But Davis deserves serious consideration for both MVP runner-up and Defensive Player of the Year.