Chris Paul, Kawhi Leonard news shakes up NBA championship odds
A day after Kevin Durant stunned the NBA with a 49-point triple-double, Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul and Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard made their own set of shocking headlines.
Around the same time Wednesday, reports surfaced that Leonard would miss Game 5 of the Clippers' series with Utah because of a potentially season-ending knee injury.
Not only were fans bewildered by the unexpected shakeup, but oddsmakers were left scrambling to figure out how Paul and Leonard's status will affect the outcome of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
After Wednesday night's game action, the postseason landscape began to shift further.
NBA Championship 2020/2021
Mon, August 30 2021, 11:57 PM
Los Angeles Clippers
Suns remain best choice to win Western Conference
On Sunday night, the second-seeded Suns completed their sweep of No. 3 seed Denver, as Paul posted a game-high 37 points to go along with seven assists, three rebounds, and two steals in a 125-118 victory.
Following that performance, the Suns' odds jumped to +350, making the team the second choice to win the NBA Finals, behind Brooklyn.
The top-seeded Jazz became the third choice (+425) to claim the Larry O'Brien Trophy, but their odds have since worsened to +600, after Wednesday night's loss.
Despite returning to Utah to play a Leonard-less Clippers team, Donovan Mitchell and company dropped Game 5 and now risk elimination in Friday's matchup at the Staples Center.
Should the Clippers seal the deal on Friday, they could play the Suns in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals as early as Sunday.
Phoenix's best shot at getting Paul back in time for the next round would be for the Jazz to force a Game 7 with Los Angeles, which would move Game 1 of the conference finals to Tuesday.
According to an unnamed source, Paul has been vaccinated against COVID-19, which may allow him to return to the court sooner. While not confirmed, the assumption is that Paul tested positive for the virus, based on the NBA's Wednesday report that one player returned a positive result out of 164 tested since June 9.
Typically, a COVID-positive player must go through a 10-day quarantine or produce two consecutive negative tests within a 24-hour period, then submit to cardiac testing.
Paul joined Phoenix in 2020 and has arguably been the most valuable player for the team this season. In his series with Denver, the 36-year-old averaged 25.5 points on 61.8% shooting, shot 58.3% from the 3-point line, and went 100% from the charity stripe. He also recorded a 41-to-5 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Clippers' odds increase, even after Game 5 win
As for the Suns' potential opponent in the Western Conference Finals, the Clippers now have +1000 odds to win the NBA title. Only the Philadelphia 76ers and the Atlanta Hawks (who are up 3-2 against Philly in their series) own worse odds.
Even with a win against Utah on Wednesday night and a masterful performance by Paul George (37 points, 16 rebounds, five assists), L.A. isn't expected to go far without Leonard.
The two-time NBA Finals MVP tweaked his knee on a drive in the fourth quarter of Game 4, but the fear is Leonard may have injured his ACL.
Leonard has averaged 27.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, and four assists in his series with the Jazz.
KD single handedly carries shorthanded Nets
In the East, the No. 2 seed Nets have their own injury issues, but you would hardly notice, because of the play of Durant.
In Game 5 in Brooklyn, Kyrie Irving sat with an ankle sprain, while James Harden returned to the lineup, but was visibly hindered by his recent hamstring injury.
That didn't matter, because the Nets' greatest weapon, Durant, showed out for all 48 minutes of Game 5, in which he became the first player in history to tally at least 45 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists in a playoff game.
The two-time NBA Finals MVP scored 20 of his 49 points in the fourth quarter, which propelled Brooklyn to a 114-108 come-from-behind victory to take a 3-2 series lead against the Milwaukee Bucks.
In spite of Brooklyn's health issues, this team has the best player in the postseason — and arguably the entire league. That should be enough for the Nets to collect the NBA title.