Griffin, George among stars with injuries as playoffs start

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              New York Knicks forward Mario Hezonja (8) greets Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin at the end of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Pistons won 115-89. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Blake Griffin’s tone was serious, befitting a man who has had one of the best seasons of his career — but now faces the same old questions about his health.

Griffin’s status for Detroit’s first-round series against Milwaukee isn’t clear at the moment, but after he sat out the Pistons’ crucial regular-season finale at New York on Wednesday night, it’s clear his left knee problems are a significant issue heading into the playoffs. Detroit plays Game 1 at top-seeded Milwaukee on Sunday night.

“We’re taking this day by day,” Griffin said Saturday. “I’m not looking forward to a day that’s not here right now in front of me. I’ll sit with our training staff, and whoever else needs to be in on that decision, and make that each day.”

It’s a tough situation for any athlete to go through — leading your team through the regular season, only to have your playoff participation threatened by an injury. This is the time of year when players and teams want to be at full strength, and that’s something Griffin, Joel Embiid, Paul George and several others are struggling.

Griffin’s injury history was well known when the Pistons acquired him from the Los Angeles Clippers in the middle of last season. He’s been terrific for Detroit, averaging a career-high 24.5 points this season. He played 75 games, his most since 2013-14.

But now, the Pistons may need to face the powerful Bucks without him — or at least with a diminished version

“It’s a huge blow, but we all got to step up. Defensively, offensively, rebounding,” guard Ish Smith said. “You’ve just got to play. You can’t overthink it. Obviously, it’s a void, but once that ball tips, you have to play.”

Detroit did catch a bit of a break with the schedule. The Pistons-Bucks series is one of the last to start Sunday, and then the teams will have two days off before Games 2 and 3.

“It gives us a couple of extra days of resting nicks and bumps and bruises,” Detroit coach Dwane Casey said.

Here’s a look at some other injury concerns as the playoffs begin:

LONG TERM

Some teams had to come to terms a while ago with injuries to their stars. Indiana’s Victor Oladipo went down with a season-ending right knee injury in January, and Portland lost center Jusuf Nurkic to a broken left leg last month.

UNCERTAIN STARS?

Like Griffin with the Pistons, Embiid and George are crucial to the hopes of the 76ers and Thunder. Embiid was in the starting lineup for Philadelphia in Game 1 against Brooklyn on Saturday, but tendinitis in his left knee cost him most of the final month of the regular season.

George could miss Oklahoma City’s opener at Portland on Sunday with right shoulder soreness.

RECENT PROBLEMS

Boston’s Marcus Smart is expected to miss 4 to 6 weeks after being diagnosed with a partial tear to his left oblique abdominal muscle. He was injured against Orlando on April 7.

Smart played in a team-high 80 games during the regular season.

Toronto forward OG Anunoby had an emergency appendectomy two days before the start of the playoffs. He’s expected to miss at least the first round.

Utah’s Ricky Rubio bruised his left quad in a game against Sacramento earlier this month.

MILWAUKEE CONCERNS

The Bucks probably won’t have much sympathy for the Pistons if Griffin can’t play. Milwaukee has its own problems.

Guard Malcolm Brogdon went down with a right foot injury last month. Nikola Mirotic broke his left thumb March 19, although he could return for Game 1. Tony Snell (sprained ankle) is not likely to be available before the middle of the series.