Clippers Vs. Spurs - How Limited is Chris Paul?

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MAY 15: Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers sits on the bench late in the game next to teammate Chauncey Billups against the San Antonio Spurs in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on May 15, 2012 in San Antonio, Texas. The Spurs defeated the Clippers 108-92. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

The 2012 playoffs will be remembered for years as the injury playoffs. I certainly cannot think of any other postseason in which so many high profile players were hurt. Beginning with Dwight Howard's back surgery at the end of the regular season, and continuing through the playoffs themselves, numerous injuries to top players and role players alike have left their imprint on this postseason.

The defending MVP of the league, Derrick Rose, tore his ACL on the very first day of the postseason, and few would argue that Chicago would have been eliminated by Philadelphia in the first round had that not happened.

Knee injuries to Iman Shumpert and Baron Davis as well as a self-inflicted wound for Amare Stoudemire certainly didn't cause the Knicks to lose in the first round to the Heat, but the visual of Baron's twisted knee remains an indelible image of the postseason.

A sprained knee only kept Josh Smith out of one game for the Hawks, but it certainly didn't help their cause as they were eliminated by the Celtics.

In other words, injuries played a role in each and every series in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. And now with Chris Bosh out indefinitely with a strained abdominal muscle, it's entirely possible it will play a role in the second round as well, as Miami has lost two straight games since Bosh was hurt.

The Clippers have been far from immune to the injury bug. Caron Butler broke a bone in his hand in the first game of the postseason, but missed only a single game before toughing it out. The Clipper stars have been hit as well. It's difficult to know exactly how much Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are limited by the injuries they suffered in Game 5 of the Grizzlies series. And it's very likely, even probable, that the Clippers would be behind 2-0 in their second round series with the Spurs even with their stars at full strength, because San Antonio has been so great.

Paul and Griffin will never admit exactly how much they are hurt, but there are some things we can observe. For one thing, the Clippers were 3-1 in the playoffs before they were hurt -- they're 1-4 since.

More telling for me, since the moment he was hurt with a little over seven minutes remaining in Game 5 against the Grizzlies, Chris Paul has yet to make a basket in the fourth quarter of five playoff games. In over 30 minutes of fourth quarter playing time, Paul has scored three points, all of them free throws. This is the player who was among the very best in the fourth quarter all season, the player who carried the Clippers to victory on countless occasions.

It's circumstantial evidence admittedly, but it's pretty obvious that Paul has been severely limited by his strained hip flexor. It's not surprising that the Clippers are losing with Paul impaired, and they'll continue to lose unless he returns to something resembling full strength.

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