Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic were both ruled out of Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Friday with injury, leaving the Miami Heat down two starters for their matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Adebayo is dealing with issues with his left shoulder and the left side of his neck. Dragic tore his left plantar fascia in Game 1.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was first to report Adebayo’s status, following up to note the Heat hold out hope that Adebayo might return for Game 3. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that Dragic would be out as well.
Both were evaluated and treated multiple times Thursday and Friday, without enough improvement to give either of them a chance to get on the floor for Game 2. The Lakers won Game 1 easily, 116-98.
“I’ve had to play the role of not just head coach but almost a parent the last 24 hours,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “These two guys are really amazing. Like everyone in our locker room, there’s a real special sense of brotherhood and responsibility and they’re both lobbying to play. Ultimately, I had to take the decision out of their hands for tonight.”
It’s the first time Adebayo has missed a game because of injury this season. He played in 158 consecutive regular-season games before sitting out Miami’s meaningless regular-season finale in the bubble back in August.
The Heat announced Meyers Leonard and rookie Tyler Herro would join the starting lineup.
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Herro — who started only eight games in the regular season — was tabbed to make his first playoff start in Dragic’s vacant backcourt spot, and Meyers Leonard was picked to start at the center spot for Adebayo. Spoelstra indicated that many players would get a swing at Adebayo’s minutes.
“We’ll have to do this by committee,” Spoelstra said.
Leonard started each of Miami’s first 49 games before getting hurt in February, badly spraining an ankle. He has played sparingly since, playing about 56 minutes in three appearances off the bench — only one of those coming in the postseason.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra explained after Thursday’s practice that Adebayo’s latest setback is different than the injured shoulder he suffered against the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
“It’s on the same side, so it’s easy to draw a comparison,” Spoelstra said. “But it’s a different injury.”
Adebayo suffered the neck injury when he slammed a shoulder into Dwight Howard while driving into the lane with 7:03 remaining in the third quarter of the team’s Game 1 loss. The team confirmed that X-rays taken at the arena were negative. But Adebayo was already clearly favoring the injury suffered in the conference finals, as he wore a sleeve on his left arm.
Adebayo scored eight points to go with four rebounds in 21 minutes of action of Game 1.
With Adebayo out for Game 2, it’s likely Spoelstra will try to replace his production on both ends of the floor with two players in veterans Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard. Though Leonard was a starting cog prior to the season hiatus, he hasn’t played since Sept. 4, when he logged nine minutes in a win over Milwaukee.
Olynyk, meanwhile, is averaging 5.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in the playoffs.
“We know exactly what Meyers and Kelly bring to our team, and hopefully we can exploit that to the best of our ability,” Heat forward Jae Crowder said. “Yeah, that’s the game plan. We know exactly how they can affect the game; just a matter of us putting them in position to help us win games.”
With Dragic also doubtful, Miami will likely turn in part to first-team NBA All-Rookie guard Kendrick Nunn, who started 67 games during the regular season, but has averaged 12.4 minutes per game in the playoffs. Nunn played nearly 20 minutes after Goran’s injury in Game 1 and contributed 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting off the bench.
Nunn arrived at the NBA bubble 25 days later after testing positive for COVID-19, and largely fell out of Spoelstra’s postseason rotation, as he struggled to regain his rhythm from before the league’s hiatus, which started in March.
“It’s just tough to see him in this position because he cares about the game, cares about his teammates, and he really wants to win,” Miami superstar forward Jimmy Butler said on Thursday about Adebayo. “Obviously, we want him out there with us. We know that we need him. He’s been huge for us in the playoffs all year long in the sense of doing whatever he was asked to do, come off the bench, start, score, facilitate, whatever.
“But it’s bigger than basketball. We care about him as a person. We want him to be right. I can talk to him as much as I can, but you can hear that pain in his voice, of him feeling like he may have let us down. But he did not, and I want him to know that. He’s carried us to this point, and it’s only our duty to pay that back to him right now.”
There has been no final determination for the availability of Adebayo and Dragic for Game 3 of the series on Sunday night.
“They are our warriors and are continuing to try to lobby,” Spoelstra said. “But they just need rest and recovery.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here , find his archive here and follow him on Twitter .
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