The Los Angeles Clippers nearly saw their championship hopes extinguished on Tuesday when star forward Paul George went down with what looked like a serious leg injury. With only around two weeks left in the regular season, any extended absence would have forced the Clippers into the postseason shorthanded, and given George's lengthy injury history, the odds of a setback or recurrence felt relatively high.
But ultimately, George did not tear any ligaments. He is expected to miss the rest of the regular season, but will be re-evaluated with a knee sprain in two-to-three weeks. As far as coach Ty Lue is concerned, the Clippers couldn't have asked for better news.
"He's a little disappointed, as expected," Lue said before the Clippers defeated the Thunder in a rematch Thursday. "But I think we got the best case scenario as far as what we thought it could be. And so, being reevaluated in two, three weeks is something that we are looking forward to."
The regular season ends in 16 days. However, the playoffs don't start for 22 days, as the play-in games must be settled before the playoffs actually begin. The Clippers, with 35 losses, are ahead of teams seeded No. 7 through No. 12, who all have 37. If they can just stay in the top six, George will have at least 22 days to recover before the Clippers play their first postseason game.
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It's important to note here that two-to-three weeks before being re-evaluated does not mean two-to-three weeks before he can return. George might be ready to play in the first round. He might not be. But the Clippers have proven capable of remaining afloat despite injuries in the postseason before. In 2021, they overcame the Utah Jazz and pushed the Phoenix Suns to six games despite the absence of an injured Kawhi Leonard.
The Clippers won't win four playoff rounds without George. If they are unlucky enough to face Kevin Durant and the Suns in the first round, which the current bracket would force them to do, they might not even be able to last one. But they won't be a pushover without him, and based on the timeline we've gotten, it's possible that they'll have him back far sooner than initially expected. If that is the case, the Clippers are right back in the championship picture.