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Rudy Gay’s Achilles injury potentially changes playoff odds for New Orleans Pelicans

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Is it now a 3-team race for the 8th seed in the Western Conference?

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Late Wednesday evening in Sacramento, Rudy Gay crashed to the floor after sustaining an apparent non-contact injury and had to be helped back to the locker room. Soon thereafter, the dreaded news reverberated throughout all social media channels: a torn Achilles tendon.

For the Kings, this could be a devastating blow from several angles, but for our purposes, we’ll only focus on one: the realistic end of a potential run for the 8th seed in the Western Conference.

If you’ve managed to glance at the standings at anytime over the last month, there’s no avoiding the logjam of teams battling for the final playoff spot: currently four squads sit 1.5 games apart of each other.

Although the Kings are still one of the four teams in the tightly packed group, they just wrapped up a 7-game home stand with a 1-6 record. Now they’ll be without Gay for the rest of the season, and an 8-game road trip kicks off in Memphis this Friday.

That’s just mean.

The last week or so has been rather unkind to several NBA players. In addition to Anthony Davis suffering a slew of assorted injuries — but thankfully all minor — some prominent names have been forced to the sidelines including Chris Paul, Rodney Hood and Kristaps Porzingis. Rudy Gay’s inclusion in this group, though, could be a game-changer for the Pelicans.

Eventually a team or two were bound to drop off the pace. Those able to avoid misfortune, whether due to injury or just bad play, would see their postseason odds strengthen.

Now, there are some who think Gay’s injury barely moves the needle, but I find that difficult to believe. He was the Kings second-leading scorer at 18.7 points per game, and the on/off numbers indicate he was one of the few players on their roster who made a positive impact.

Following the game, DeMarcus Cousins claimed the loss of such an important player could galvanize the Kings. Not to sound callous, but that’s probably just raw emotion fueled by adrenaline speaking. I love the idea that Sacramento’s superstar wants to ‘do it for, Rudy,’ yet how often can a team, which is already floundering, logistically replace that type of production?

Practically half the season remains to be decided, but perhaps one of the Pelicans direct competitors just removed themselves from the equation.

Sorry, Sacramento. :(