In the span of 36 hours, the NBA world was flipped on its head, not once, but twice, and now the future is anything but knowable. Yet we do know one thing: this isn't good for basketball or its fans.
It started Sunday afternoon when Donatas Motiejunas fell to the floor during a play, which happens in the course of a game. His sweat on the court resulted in Stephen Curry losing his footing awkwardly, and ultimately leading to a sprained MCL which will keep him out some stretch of time between eight days and two weeks.
On Monday afternoon when his timeline was announced, it seemed that the window was suddenly open for the Los Angeles Clippers. Up 2-1 on the young and out-talented Portland Trail Blazers, suddenly a gap had opened to finally allow the Clippers -- more specifically Chris Paul -- to advance to the Western Conference finals with a real shot at reaching the NBA Finals. And in a heartbeat, on a simple play on a transition drive by Gerald Henderson, the whole basketball world flipped upside down again.
Chris Paul suffered a broken third metacarpal in his right hand against the Blazers in Game 4. There's no official word on a recovery timeline but reports have ranged from 10 days to six weeks. What is certain is that he's not going to return for this series, and there's a very good chance he's done for the playoffs.
Which means the Clippers are done for the playoffs. There's no getting past the Warriors without Paul, Curry or no Curry. There's not much of a chance in getting past the Blazers without him, especially with Blake Griffin experiencing more leg injury discomfort in that same game. Portland has all the momentum, and the Clippers lost their maestro. Paul is the one that keeps things together for the Clippers. He makes DeAndre Jordan into a weapon in the pick and roll. He frees up space for Griffin. He finds J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford. Oh, and he's a phenomenal scorer and shooter.
And now he's gone.
So the Warriors suffered a terrible stretch of luck when Curry went down and just as the Clippers were set to benefit from Golden State's misfortune, so do the Warriors benefit from Paul's injury (and Griffin's if serious). They will either face a Clippers team that's a shell of itself or a Blazers team that is not ready for this moment, much the same way the Warriors weren't ready for the Spurs in the second round in 2013. You have to be ready for that moment and the Blazers just aren't. Reaching the second round would be a great accomplishment no matter how it comes about, but Golden State, even without Curry, would be far too much for Portland.
It's a wash, in many ways, and we return to the status quo, with the Warriors sharpied into the conference finals. Maybe you think that's "fair" but in reality, this is just sports. They're just injuries that happened to human beings. There's no right or wrong, justice or karmic equilibrium at play. Things just happen.
The big loser in all this? Fans of the game. Watching Chris Paul vs. Stephen Curry is watching two of the greatest point guards not only in the game today, but of all time. It's an epic matchup between two teams that have a genuine dislike for one another, and between Paul, who has been the best at the position for nearly a decade, and Curry, who has usurped the throne and stolen the spotlight from Paul almost entirely.
It's a matchup you want to savor and devour at the same time, that you set your DVR and clear your calendar. Cancel that Netflix and Chill, CP3 vs. Steph is on.
And now it's off.
We don't get the best of the Warriors, we don't get the best of the Clippers, and we don't get the best of Clippers vs. Warriors. There's a lot of pain here, in Steph's knee, in Paul's hand, in Griffin's leg, in our hearts for the game fans love. That won't come close to what Chris Paul is going to experience knowing this, what may be his last true chance at a title slip away, or to what Curry will go through having to watch his comrades battle without him and being unable to help them splash. All day long after Curry's injury we examined who had the most to gain with the window being opened in the most unfortunate of manners.
Monday night was a cruel reminder that as quickly as fortunes can turn for the better, they can just as easily be wiped away. Can the Warriors survive without Curry? Can the Clippers manage without Paul? Could the Blazers actually make a run? There's drama in not knowing, but there's also regret in knowing that the postseason we all had looked forward to is gone.
All in 36 hours.