Chris Paul is the latest star point guard to suffer a pretty bad injury: the Clippers' MVP candidate will miss 3-5 weeks with a separated shoulder. Home court advantage is pretty darn important in the Western Conference, especially for a team like L.A., which is currently 14-3 at home and 9-9 on the road. Losing CP3 for a month or so won't knock the Clippers out of the playoff bracket, but it could cost them home court advantage.
Missing three weeks would cost CP3 11 games. Missing four weeks would cost him 15 games. Missing the full five weeks would cost 18 games, or just over 20 percent of the season.
Let's assume four weeks, or 15 games. Six of those games are at home, nine on the road. Five of the six home games are winnable with or without CP3; the opponents are Orlando, Boston, the Lakers, Washington and Utah. The Celtics, Lakers and Wizards are horrid, but the Clippers are so deep that provided Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford are healthy, the Clippers will be favored. The other home game comes against Dallas, who the Clippers beat on the road Friday with CP3 lasting just 22 minutes. (CP3 was spectacular in those 22 minutes with 19 points, six assists and one turnover.)
So the Clippers could very well go 6-0 at home without CP3. Stuff happens, the Mavericks are pretty good and three of the other teams are not horrible, so losses could have happened with CP3, and could happen without him. But that's a pretty light home stretch. The great thing for the Clippers -- call it a silver lining -- is that the road schedule isn't tough at all.
On Saturday, the Clippers wrap a road trip in San Antonio, where the Spurs are 12-5. But San Antonio has also notably struggled against fellow contenders this season, and the Spurs defense has been in bad shape for the past month. This would be a winnable game with CP3; it's a dice roll without him. After four at home, the Clippers embark on their longest road trip of the season, a 7-game, 12-day dart around the East and upper Midwest. There are two back-to-backs on the trip. The second games on each: Indiana (a probable loss with or without CP3) and Toronto (a question mark in every sense). The other foes are New York, Detroit, Chicago and Milwaukee. It'd only be more fortuitous for the Clippers if we mixed in Cleveland and Philadelphia. Alas, those mediocre squads will have to do.
After returning home to face the Wizards, the Clippers fly up to Oakland on a back-to-back to face the Warriors. Then it's back home for Utah. If Paul remains out a fifth week, a visit to Denver and visits from Miami and Toronto await.
So basically, over the next 3-5 weeks, the Clippers face a number of mediocre-to-bad teams they should beat with or without CP3, a couple of good teams they could definitely lose to with CP3, and a few middle-of-the-road clubs against which CP3 (or the lack thereof) could be a difference. Unless things go horribly wrong, the Clippers' record without CP3 in these games shouldn't be appreciably different than it would have been with him. It's a pretty nice stretch to have to miss one of the best players in the world.
L.A. is currently just one game clear of Golden State and Houston for the valuable No. 4 seed. Phoenix is an additional game back. Every game matters in this race, so any loss attributed to CP3's injury will sting. But in the end, this injury shouldn't be an excuse for the Clippers to fail to win a top-four seed.