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Clippings: The healthiest team moves on in these playoffs

That wasn’t the Clippers.

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2021 NBA Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v LA Clippers Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

During the Clippers’ postgame interviews after Game 6 Wednesday, a common refrain stood out that the healthiest team advanced.

Paul George said, “you understand the healthiest team usually wins at this time” and that they’d be moving on if Kawhi Leonard were healthy. Marcus Morris Sr. said, “The healthiest team won.” Ty Lue said he hoped to see what could happen next year if his team could stay healthy.

The Clippers didn’t sound bitter about their fate or disapproving of Phoenix. They were just stating what they believed to be a simple fact: They lost because they weren’t as healthy as the Suns, who had their own issues with Chris Paul getting the coronavirus, Cam Payne spraining his ankle, Devin Booker breaking his nose, and Cameron Johnson contracting another illness and missing the closeout game.

Those ailments didn’t quite measure up to L.A. missing Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka for the entire series and Ivica Zubac for the final two games. That’s why the Clippers were so upset about losing the first two in Phoenix, particularly Game 2. That was when their health was most level with Phoenix, and they couldn’t take advantage.

Unfortunately, injuries have taken an enormous toll on these playoffs outside of the Clippers and the Suns. If Giannis Antetokounmpo misses Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, 10 All-Stars will have missed games in this year’s postseason, and that doesn’t even count Trae Young, who sat out Atlanta’s last game. The Clippers are a rare team that advanced a round in spite of missing an All-Star; the Lakers, Nets, Sixers, and Celtics weren’t as fortunate.

On the one hand, it’s easy to be proud of the Clippers for getting this far without three rotation players. On the other hand, it’s painful to see how close they were to a title in a wide-open, broken down field. Those are the breaks. Everyone’s going through it, even the Suns — but the Clippers felt a little more snakebitten than the rest.

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