4. No Injury Luck
Almost every season, the best team in the NBA wins the title. But most of them don’t get there without a little injury luck. Just ask the Thunder, who have dealt with playoff injuries to Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka that crippled their championship aspirations the last two seasons.
Now, that’s not to say the Suns are title contenders by any stretch of the imagination, or that Phoenix has dealt with any major injuries. But the Suns’ playoff odds have dwindled because the depth of the Western Conference hasn’t really been put to the ultimate test.
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With Kevin Durant and Westbrook once again healthy, the Thunder are coming for a playoff spot. LaMarcus Aldridge will be playing with a torn ligament in his thumb to keep the Portland Trail Blazers afloat, but even if he can’t go, the Suns wouldn’t really benefit too much.
The winner of each division in the NBA is guaranteed a top-four playoff spot. So even if Aldridge couldn’t go, the Blazers would have to completely enter free-fall mode because either they or OKC would be guaranteed a playoff spot by virtue of playing in the weak Northwest division.
No such luck for Phoenix, who has the misfortune of playing in the same Pacific Division with the league-leading Golden State Warriors and likely playoff-bound Los Angeles Clippers.
To be clear, no fan should ever hope or cheer for injuries to other teams’ star players. Karma never works in your favor in that regard and teams should want to make the playoffs by beating the best, not by virtue of another’s misfortune.
That being said, injuries cripple at least one or two playoff-bound teams every year; it’s just the way this game works over an 82-game schedule. Durant and Westbrook missing so much early time gave the Suns their opening into the top eight, but that good fortune might not last much longer, especially if Aldridge can play on that injured thumb.
Furthermore, all this is without mentioning that Kevin Durant AND Zach Randolph returned from temporary injuries to put up nearly season-best performances on the Suns, adding two more losses to Phoenix’s total.