NBA Star Power Index: Kyrie Irving, CJ McCollum shines in play-in; Luka Doncic’s injury is not something to be fooled by

Welcome back to NBA Star Power Index: A weekly poll of the players who get the most buzz in the league. Adding to this list is not necessarily a good thing – it simply means that you catch the attention of the NBA world. This is not a location either. The listed players are not in any particular order. This column will run weekly through the regular season and playoffs.

Doncic’s injury is difficult. Mavs calls it a strained calf, which is vague. Tribe makes it sound harmless, but a strain is a tear; it’s just about degrees, or grades, as you may remember hearing with Kevin Durant’s trunk back in 2019 with the Warriors. It was called one “mild” strain first, and was eventually convicted as a grade 1, or possibly grade 2 strain. Durant ended up being missed over a month before returning in Game 5 of the final when, of course, he tore his Achilles to pieces.

This is what happens with calf injuries. They can quite easily become Achilles injuries if you return too soon. It all comes together, and if the calf is not completely healed (depending on the location of the calf injury), you could risk a much more serious injury, either to the calf or the Achilles tendon. Dr. Alan Beyer, an orthopedic surgeon and chief medical officer at the Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Newport Beach, Ca., warned me about this with Durant’s first calf injury.

“Understand, a load and rift are the same thing,” said Dr. Beyer to CBS Sports after Durant’s first calf load in 2019. “So Durant has a crack in that calf. The classification just indicates how many fibers have been affected. Mild load or a grade 1 or 2 tear, whatever you want to call it, it’s one thing.But if he were to come back on a partially healed calf and then end up tearing it all the way by landing or taking off incorrectly, now you’re talking about potentially never coming back 100 percent.He would regret that decision the rest of his career. “

Dr. Beyer also told me this before Durant tore his Achilles, which became an almost eerie warning in hindsight.

Now none of this means that Doncic will tear his calf to pieces or blow his Achilles. It’s just to point out that a “tribe” is not as harmless as it sounds. Doncic, whose injury, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi, is described as “more than just a mild strain” – could easily be out for longer than you might think. As it looks right now, the Mavericks are reportedly skeptical about how quickly Doncic may be available to play in Dallas’ first-round series vs. Utah.

Unlike Stephen Curry, who I expect to play in Game 1, I would be surprised if Doncic goes after the Mavericks in the opening against Utah.

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Irving posted a masterpiece in the Nets’ play-in victory over the Cavs Tuesday. He made his first 12 shots, which would be an NBA playoff record if we called the playoffs playoffs, which we technically are not. He did not miss through the first three quarters. Irving finished with 34 points and 12 assists on 12-of-15 shots, including 3 of 6 from 3 and 7 for 7 from the free-throw line.

Irving and Kevin Durant, who were fantastic in their own right, especially defensively, finished the first quarter with a total of 19 points on 10-of-10 shooting. Cleveland actually surpassed the Nets by 13 points over the last three quarters, an effort helped by keeping the Nets at eight points through the first nine plus minutes of the second quarter that Durant started on the bench. Brooklyn will have to figure out the non-KD-Kyrie combo minutes, but there will not be many. Steve Nash is going to play both of these guys 40 minutes per game. struggle, at least forward. He has no choice.

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Beverley went for full heel in Minnesota’s play-in victory over the Clippers (the team that traded Beverley last summer to save luxury tax money) on Tuesday. I wrote about this, and I want to repeat: Do not let Beverley’s jokes fool you into thinking that the only place he has in the league is as an instigator. This man is a great basketball player. A true winner. A top-level defender. Beverley’s team has reached the playoffs in eight of its nine seasons in the league, and the one year that did not happen (2017-18 Clippers), Beverley played in only 11 games.

It is no coincidence that Beverley appeared in Minnesota, and suddenly the Wolves are in the playoffs for just the third time since 2004. He has undoubtedly been more instrumental than any single person in that organization in terms of changing identity. Beverley expects to win and he played like that on Tuesday. He finished with seven points and 11 rebounds, but as usual, his effect was not based on box scores.

Against his former team, who he feels did not respect him and treated him like a rejector, Beverley was ready to cut from the jump. This is a few seconds inside the game.

This was not the last time Beverley and Marcus Morris would get in touch. Less than a minute into the second half, Beverley almost lured Morris to his second technical foul, which would have got him ostracized. Upon review, it was rightly established that Beverley … walking figure … was the initiator.

From my postgame story:

Do not even try to argue that Morris started this establishing contact with Beverley. Players do this all the time to keep an eye on their man, to know where he is while watching the bouncy ball. Beverley cuts down on Morris’ arm, as if it were a cement block in a kung fu video. Beverley knew he was luring Morris into his second technology, and when he first thought he had succeeded, he began to jump down the pitch and wave goodbye as the villainous showman he has always been. Seriously, if the guy was not that good at this basketball thing, he would have a job as a wrestling heel in a second. Vince McMahon wanted to back up a Brinks truck.

What is lost in all these jokes, however, is that Beverley is a really good player. Defense is a skill, and despite all the emphasis on long, versatile off-ball defenders roaming around and making passing play, an old-fashioned, get-into-your-shirt-defender opponent remains, no goal scorer or ball handler. wish to see. Beverley is low and sideways fast. He has fast, aggressive hands. And he predicts the way a good caregiver sees plays develop ahead of schedule.

See all of this crucial possession in the fourth quarter below. Beverley starts on Paul George, who tells you how great a defender he is that Chris Finch would stab him at the opponent’s superstar who has cooked up in the second half in a two-point game with less than five minutes left. When Morris opens for a 3’er, Beverley runs out to harass him a bit. Then Morris gives it up to Reggie Jackson, who goes into a pick-and-roll that Beverley shifts, so he guards Jackson straight up. Now the timer has ticked for less than five seconds. Beverley knows Jackson needs to act fast, and he also knows Jackson likes to hang his dribble out to the side before pulling up in a jumper or crossing over. He predicts it. Sees it. And in that split second, he strikes. Loosens it. He pretty much kills the entire possession on his own.

Beverley again selected Jackson with less than 30 seconds to play to officially seal the game:

All of this preceded a championship-worthy celebration – which, to be fair, is about how a playoff spot in Minnesota feels.

The Timberwolves must face the Memphis Grizzlies No. 2 in the first round of the playoffs, with Game 1 scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m. 15 ET.

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McCollum led the Pelicans past the Spurs in the West’s 9-10 play-in game on Wednesday, with 32 points, seven assists and six rebounds on 12-of-23 shots, including 3 of 5 from 3. He surpassed the entire Spurs start. lineup in the first half, 27-25.

With all the talk that the Blazers could not win with McCollum and the Damian Lillard pair in the backcourt, you may have allowed yourself to forget that McCollum is a bucket. have always been. will always be. In a one-on-one situation, there may not be 10 players in the world that I would rather have created a shot than McCollum in a playoff scenario.

Blazers fans know that. McCollum was a wildly popular player in Portland, and now Rip City faithful must take root against McCollum – because if the Pelicans get into the playoffs, the protected first-round pick that Portland got back from New Orleans in the McCollum trade will not deliver. That choice only goes to the Blazers if it falls between No. 5 and No. 14. If New Orleans makes the playoffs, it can not pick higher than No. 15 in the upcoming draft, which would then reverse the Blazers’ choice. is guilty of a 2025 Milwaukee first-rounder, which has nowhere near the same value.

Portland wants New Orleans in the lottery. This way, the Blazers would have their own lottery pick and most likely another lottery pick from New Orleans (unless they beat the ping-pong ball odds and jump into the top four, which is unlikely). That would give the Blazers two really good assets to potentially hit the trading market with as they try to rebuild a competitor on the go. if McCollum of all people ends up costing the Blazers that choice because he plays out in a few play-in matches (he is already halfway there), it will be an extremely bitter pill for the Blazers and their fans to swallow.

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Curry has been out since March 16 with a sprained ligament in his left foot, and his status for the Golden States start in the playoffs against the Nuggets on Saturday is, according to the team, “undetermined.”

It goes without saying how badly the Warriors need Curry, not just back on the field, but as close to 100 percent as possible if they intend to make a real run towards a title. Based on the reports on how Curry is developing, I would be surprised if he did not play on Saturday. But even if he does not, he will almost certainly be back on the field relatively early in this series.

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