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Al Jefferson & Pat Beverley Prepare To Play In Pain Because It’s The Playoffs

There were a couple of injuries in the opening weekend of the 2014 NBA Playoffs that could mean early exits for the team’s involved. Al Jefferson briefly left Game 1 between the Heat and Bobcats after a plantar fascia injury in the first quarter. Patrick Beverley appeared to strain the same right knee whose meniscus he tore late in the regular season, but stayed in Game 1 against the Blazers. Both injuries could spell doom for their respective teams even as both players plan to grit through the pain for the playoffs.

Jefferson said after the game he “heard a ‘pop.'” as relayed by the Charlotte Observer‘s long-time beat reporter, Rick Bonnell:

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After the game, Jefferson recalled the “Pop” felt, “Like somebody shot me. A terrible feeling. I knew something was wrong.”

But that’s not going to keep Jefferson from suiting up tonight in Game 2. Levity was the name of the game for a relaxed Jefferson on Monday following an MRI exam on the foot.

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Jefferson told Bonnell after Game 1, “I’m suiting up. It’ll take more than that to make me sit down.” Even if his coach, Steve Clifford isn’t so sure Jefferson can go:

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Clifford mentioned after the game how the Bobcats rely on Jefferson’s low-post offense more than any other team relies on a single player to facilitate things on that end of the court.

As Bonnell mentions, Jefferson’s toughness despite the injury won’t matter if he’s not effective. Fortunately, the doctors and training staff said Jefferson isn’t taking a special risk by playing. He won’t need surgery in the off-season, but tolerating the pain will be his largest hurdle moving forward.

He took two pain-killing injections in order to return in Game 1 on Sunday. Before the pop, he had scored eight points on a perfect 4-for-4 against Miami’s undersized front line. But he was just 5-for-13 the rest of the way and his normally perfect footwork faltered whenever he attempted to pivot on the left foot before a shot fake (something he does at an elite level) or an offensive move. He relied on shot from further out.

“I stopped short. I was afraid to continue,” Jefferson described. “It was more in my head than anything, that I was afraid to do things I normally do.”

For now, painkillers are Jefferson’s “new best friend,” and while the Bobcats odds of surviving their first-round series against the two-time defending champs were long to begin with, without Jefferson manning the middle, those odds reach proportions more in line with the Lottery Mega Millions.

While it’s Jefferson’s offense he’ll be trying to provide in Game 2 tonight in Miami, Houston’s Patrick Beverley is their defensive force on the perimeter and the best chance they have of advancing past a frisky Blazers team with an all-star opposite Beverley at the point guard position.

Click to read how Beverley is overcoming his strained knee…

Patrick Beverley suffered a meniscus tear in late March, but after renowned knee specialist Dr. James Andrews examined the knee, he said surgery wouldn’t be required. Beverley, similar to Wolverine, seemed indestructible.

But in Game 1 against the Blazers, Beverley’s knee collided with LaMarcus Aldridge, and he appeared to strain it out towards the end of the OT affair. After flexing the knee a few times, he returned to the court for the game’s final two possessions. But the knee still got examined after the game:

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Rockets doctors cleared him to play early Monday morning and he remained as determined as ever when asked about it at practice earlier this week:

“I know my body more than anybody else. I know how I felt when I woke up this morning, that I was OK. Hearing him (Rockets team doctor Walter Lowe) agree with me was definitely a blessing.”

As his teammates breathed a sigh of relief, James Harden put Beverley’s importance to the team front and center, in case you’re one of those fans who believes Beverley’s health isn’t as important because he’s not the offensive focal point of the team:

“I was very excited,” Harden said when learning Beverley was OK. “He is one of our leaders, especially defensively. I’m glad to see he’s OK. He looked good today.”

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One guy who might have preferred Beverley sat a couple games out was Blazers point guard Damian Lillard. Lillard and Beverley had a little war of words in the regular season after Beverley’s physical defense rubbed Dame the wrong way.

But when asked about Beverley’s clean bill of health — at least in terms of suiting up for Game 2 — Lilliard said he was glad Patrick was playing:

“It raises the level of the game when he is out there,” Lillard said. “I don’t wish injury on anybody. They have had a great season and I would hate to see one of their key players not be a part of the series. I wish him the best with that. I hope he is healthy.”

The two have been complimentary of each other since the playoffs started, probably hoping to avoid any locker-room material that could inspire extra motivation. But while Beverley called Dame “a phenomenal point guard,” and Lilliard said, “When they know [Beverley] is going to be subbing in and out of the game, I think they are a better team,” it’s anybody’s guess if Beverley’s knee actually holds up.

Jefferson and Beverley are playing after Game 1 injuries. One player shepherd’s his team’s offense, the other the team’s perimeter defense, but neither are 100 percent in terms of their health. For every grimace you see from them tonight, remember they’re grinding through the pain because it’s the playoffs and NBA playoff basketball is not for the meek of heart.

Which injury is worse for their team?

Follow Spencer on Twitter at @SpencerTyrel.

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