As Doc Rivers watched Anthony Edwards grab his right knee and hobble to the Minnesota Timberwolves’ locker room during Game 4 of their first-round series playoff against the Memphis Grizzlies Saturday night, the Sixers coach’s mind immediately went to the worst-case scenario.

“Oh no,” Rivers said to himself. “Here’s another one.”

Though Edwards returned to the game, Rivers’ initial reaction was understandable. Injuries to Sixers MVP finalist Joel Embiid, Raptors All-Star Fred VanVleet and recently named Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes have impacted the series in which Rivers is coaching and that moves back to Toronto for Game 6 following the Raptors’ 103-88 victory Monday night.

Yet the Sixers and Raptors are not alone. Several key players across the first round already have gotten hurt, providing an unpleasant subplot to the start of the postseason.

“It’s scary, I’m telling you,” Rivers said Sunday, after sharing that an MRI on Embiid’s thumb confirmed a torn thumb ligament on his shooting hand. “You don’t worry about it. But it just feels like, right now, jeez. I mean, every night. … Listen, it is what it is. You’ve just got to survive it and play through it.”

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Barnes missed two games with a sprained ankle suffered in Game 1. VanVleet departed Game 4 and did not play in Game 5 with a hip strain that left him so frustrated he ripped his jersey in half. And Embiid has vowed to play through his ailment before having offseason surgery.

Among the other players injured so far in the playoffs are standout guard Khris Middleton of the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, who was resting an MCL sprain as his team took a 3-1 lead on the Chicago Bulls on Sunday; All-Star Devin Booker (hamstring strain) of the Phoenix Suns, who followed their 2021 Finals appearance by ripping through the regular season but now are tied 2-2 with the eighth-seeded New Orleans Pelicans; Kyle Lowry of the Eastern Conference-leading Miami Heat, who missed his team’s Game 4 win against the Atlanta Hawks with a hamstring strain; and Bulls defensive pest Alex Caruso, who left Sunday’s loss with a concussion. Utah Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell was added to the list Monday night, when he sustained a hamstring injury during a Game 5 loss that will receive an MRI Tuesday.

That collection does not include Paul George, who was placed in health and safety protocols the day his Los Angeles Clippers lost their play-in game against the Pelicans. Or reviled Sixer-turned-Net Ben Simmons, who reportedly was on track to make his season debut in Game 4 of Brooklyn’s series against the Boston Celtics before back soreness resurfaced. Or the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard and the Denver Nuggets’ Jamal Murray, who sustained serious knee injuries late last season and have not played in 2021-22.

“It’s really unfortunate,” said Sixers reserve forward Georges Niang, who noted he watched the Bucks play without Middleton and the Suns without Booker on Sunday. “That’s why, in the NBA playoffs, you kind of have to get lucky. You got to have everybody be healthy, [and] maybe you catch a couple breaks with another team missing a couple guys.

“That’s why there’s a very small group of individuals and teams that are in the championship fraternity.”

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Injuries are a factor during every season and every playoffs. Jeff Stotts, a certified athletic trainer who tracks sports injuries via a website called In Street Clothes, told The Inquirer on Monday afternoon that the early numbers “suggest a very slight increase in both new injuries that have occurred since the end of the regular season and the number of playoff games lost to injury. However, it doesn’t appear it’s a significant increase.”

“I do think the names involved have been bigger,” Stotts said, “giving us the impression that they are worse.”

Some of these injuries, such as the tear in Embiid’s thumb that he believes occurred when the finger got twisted in a jersey during Game 3, are of the freak variety. But Rivers recently wondered if some are perhaps a byproduct of what he called the “end of the COVID tour.”

The NBA is about to crown its third champion in less than 21 months. Two shortened offseasons, plus an Olympics run for some of the league’s best players last summer, have broken up those campaigns. Sixers veteran Danny Green, who has sustained a variety of nagging injuries this season after winning the 2020 title with the Lakers and playing into the 2021 second round with the Sixers, said back in October that he would “sit when I’m supposed to sit” to preserve his body for the playoffs. Rivers added back then that he would rely on the Sixers’ medical and training staffs to dictate player workload throughout the season and would be curious to see how the teams such as Milwaukee and Phoenix would be impacted during this playoff run.

But Niang’s eyes widened Monday morning when reminded of how much basketball has been played since the Disney bubble restart began in late July 2020.

“Wow, yeah. I hadn’t even thought of that,” Niang said after the Sixers’ Game 5 shootaround. “It’s really been a grind for some guys. I’m sure guys are really thinking about, after all this is over, how they’re going to be taking care of their bodies to have a first real regular offseason [since 2019].

“But we had to get in the games. I like getting paid. I like playing basketball, so I’m not complaining.”

Some good health news has arrived during the playoffs, however. Barnes returned for the Raptors in Game 4 and then totaled 12 points, 8 rebounds 4 assists and 3 steals as a starter in Toronto’s Game 5 win. Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic, who suffered a calf injury during their regular season finale, and Celtics defensive specialist Robert Williams, who tore his meniscus in late March, have come back during their respective first-round series. The severity of some of the injuries the other sidelined stars suggest they could also return if their teams move on to the next round.

Still, as Sixers guard Shake Milton bluntly put it, “injuries suck.”

Especially during the playoffs.

“You wish you could turn them off,” Milton said. “But I guess that’s just part of the game. Everybody wants to be at full strength. You want everybody at full strength, because you’d rather beat somebody at full strength. That way, there’s no excuses.”