The Miami Heat will be without veteran power forward PJ Tucker for the final two games of the regular season and possibly longer.
An MRI revealed a calf strain that the team said Tucker will be sidelined for at least a week. The Heat finish the regular season playing the Atlanta Hawks at the FTX Arena on Friday night and the Orlando Magic away on Sunday. The playoffs then begin on the weekend of April 16-17.
Tucker, 36, has been a staple of the Heat starting lineup, starting in 70 of his 71 appearances. The 6-foot-5 veteran, who signed a two-year deal during the offseason that includes a player option for next season, has helped clear the floor with his 3-pointer corners and anchor defense with his ability to defend opposing power forwards. and perimeter scorers.
In Tucker’s absence, heat options at the position include Caleb Martin and Markieff Morris, who fell out of the rotation after returning from 58 games due to whiplash. Morris started in place of Tucker in Sunday night’s road win over the Toronto Raptors when Tucker got the night off. Martin started this game in place of Jimmy Butler, who was also given the night off.
Tucker was injured during the third quarter of Tuesday night’s win over visiting Charlotte Hornets and hobbled to the locker room.
Assistant Chris Quinn, who stepped in while coach Erik Spoelstra was sidelined due to NBA health and safety protocols, said getting Tucker healthy is a priority.
“Obviously the big picture with Tuck and his health, he plays a big part in what we do defensively, especially,” Quinn said, “but also offensively because he’s so selfless and he always plays for the team. He doesn’t always care how many shots he gets, which is a big factor on our team.
“Obviously we will miss him in the last couple of games but going forward it’s more important that he gets healthy.”
The decision on a replacement could come down to whether the Heat are looking for the speed that Martin can offer or the physicality and toughness of Morris.
“That’s something we’ve been dealing with all season, guys in and out,” Quinn said, “and people wanted to play different roles depending on the game and the week. Caleb obviously brings more speed. He’s had a great year and has really proven himself. And then ‘Keif brings with him another veteran presence, physicality and size.
“So these two guys have done a good job when given opportunities to play. And we will rely on them even without Tuck.”
Rookie center Omer Yurtseven was also absent from training on Thursday due to illness. The team said Yurtseven had been tested for COVID, with those results coming back negative.
Of stepping in for Spoelstra for a fifth straight day, including coaching the team to victories over the Raptors and Hornets, Quinn said Thursday, “Like anything else, the more you do something, the more comfortable you feel.”
The NBA has announced scheduling for the play-in tournament, which will likely leave the Heat with a significant wait before learning their first-round playoff opponent.
The NBA announced that the No. 7 in the east of Tuesday’s regular season will host the No. 8, with the winner securing the No. 7 and facing the No. 2.
The No. 9 will host No. 10 on Wednesday, with the winner of that match playing the loser of the match between Nos. 7-8 on Friday to determine the No. 8 and the right to face the No. 1 seed.
The timing almost ensures that the Heat’s playoff opener will take place at the FTX Arena on April 17th.
In addition to Tucker’s absence, the Heat listed six players as questionable for Friday night against the Hawks: Dewayne Dedmon (ankle), Haywood Highsmith (hip), Martin (calf), Morris (hip), Gabe Vincent (toe) and Omer Yurtseven ( non-Covid disease).
https://www.twincities.com/2022/04/07/heats-tucker-out-at-least-a-week-as-mri-confirms-calf-strain-nba-sets-play-in-schedule/ Heat’s tucker out at least a week as MRI confirms calf strain; NBA Sets Game Schedule – Twin Cities