Injured point guards major impact in East, West semifinals
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) John Wall hopes to test his broken left hand and wrist by trying to dribble a basketball.
''You have to be able to dribble,'' the Wizards' All-Star guard said Friday. ''It's basically taping my hand behind my back and saying dribble with one hand. It's not happening in this league. It's just something I have to deal with. It's frustrating. It's tough.''
Injuries continue to have a major impact on the conference semifinals with Washington replacing Memphis as the team waiting to see if its point guard can or should try to play with broken bones.
Sure, Mike Conley played eight days after surgery to repair broken bones in his left cheek, but the Grizzlies' guard missed three games until swelling eased enough in his face to wear a mask. Even the Clippers' Chris Paul took off a couple games to rest his strained left hamstring.
Memphis was able to close out Portland without Conley, and he returned in time to help the Grizzlies split with the Warriors in the first two games in the Western Conference semifinals. The Clippers split both games Paul sat out in Houston, giving him time to rest up for Game 3.
Wall is averaging 17.6 points and 12.6 assists this postseason. With five non-displaced fractures, Wall could hurt his hand and wrist even worse by playing so he's not sure if he will be able to play Game 3 today no matter how tough it might be sitting out.
''This series has to go on,'' Wall said. ''This is a great opportunity for these guys to step up, play a key role and win some games.''
A look at the two games:
Warriors at Grizzlies, tied 1-1, 8 p.m., EDT, ESPN
Golden State faces its first true test after sweeping New Orleans and easily winning the opener against the Grizzlies. Conley's return allowed the Grizzlies to take home-court advantage with them back to Memphis, and masks already were waiting for fans to turn up the volume Saturday night in appreciation of the guard's gutty performance Tuesday night.
Playing on the road has been pretty easy for the Warriors who posted not only the NBA's best record overall in the regular season but were the league's best away from home.
''For us, this is some of the first adversity that we've faced,'' Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. ''We've got a couple options: we can hang our heads or we can go in there and fight in Memphis. We're the best road team in the NBA for a reason. We can go in there and win if we play hard enough, and that's what we expect to do.''
Conley was testing a new mask after practice Friday, hopefully one with holes to protect against fogging. Having three days between games has helped him recover, and Conley even has been able to run and lift weights. He's even getting the feeling back in parts of his face now.
''That's a good thing,'' Conley said.
Hawks at Wizards, tied 1-1, 5 p.m. EDT, ESPN
The Wizards are preparing to play without Wall against the East's No. 1 seed after grabbing home-court advantage by winning the series opener with their point guard on the floor. Bradley Beal, who took over at the point in Game 2, is averaging only 4 assists this postseason.
Beal said he thinks he tried to do too much in that game, trying to compensate for Wall's absence. He said the key for him is simply creating opportunities for shots and rebound.
''I got to rely on my teammates and act like John is there when he's not there,'' Beal said.
Wall's advice is for Beal to be aggressive but smart if double-teamed.
''Trust the guys are going to make shots,'' Wall said. ''Kick it out to them. That's something you have to build. He hasn't been in that situation too many times. Mostly he was the guy being aggressive and I have to find guys.
Atlanta guard Kyle Korver was with Chicago when the Bulls lost Derrick Rose to a torn ACL.
''We were all bummed, but you know what, you still have to play,'' Korver said. ''We got beat four games in a row, and I'm not saying that's going to happen here. We have a lot of respect for them and still think it's going to be a tough series.''
AP freelance writer Benjamin Standig in Washington contributed to this report.