Banged-up Heat hope to get back on track vs. Bucks
Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler will likely be unavailable Wednesday night when they host the Milwaukee Bucks.
Butler injured his tailbone on Nov. 27 against the Chicago Bulls and missed the next four games. Late in Monday night’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Butler drove to the basket and landed with a thud once again on his tailbone.
Butler tried to play through the injury before leaving the game for good in the third quarter.
“I don’t have an update other than he is very sore,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He drew contact and got shoved and landed on his tailbone again.
“It is a contact sport. It’s an unpredictable thing. He aggravated the injury. You can tell from that point on he wasn’t his usual self.”
The injuries are piling up for the Heat, who have lost four of five games, including their last three home games.
All-Star center Bam Adebayo is out for roughly six weeks due to a thumb injury. Guard Victor Oladipo, who has a 17.5 career scoring average, hasn’t played all season due a knee injury. And Markieff Morris, a defensive-minded forward, has missed 15 straight games due to a neck injury.
Butler and Adebayo have combined this season to average 41.5 points, 16.0 rebounds and 8.4 assists.
Their absence leaves the Heat with three principal players: Tyler Herro, whose 21.4 scoring average is second on the team to Butler; Kyle Lowry, who leads the team with 7.6 assists; and Duncan Robinson, who is averaging 10.9 points but has slumped badly from his previous 3-point-shooting form.
Spoelstra insisted after Monday’s wire-to-wire 105-90 loss to Memphis: “We have enough.”
But Heat fans may wonder after looking at recent results, including a 124-102 loss in Milwaukee on Saturday.
That whipping could be viewed as payback for Miami’s season-opening 137-95 win over Milwaukee in the other meeting between the teams so far this season. But the Bucks don’t see it that way.
“We just want to build good habits,” Bucks forward Bobby Portis said. “It’s not about the Miami Heat.”
Like the Heat, the Bucks have had some injury/illness issues of late.
Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo missed two games — including Saturday’s win over the Heat — due to a right-calf injury. But Monday, he returned to the lineup on his 27th birthday and scored 27 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a 112-104 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Bucks are 10-1 in their past 11 games.
“We’re in a very good spot right now,” said Antetokounmpo, who scored 15 points in Monday’s fourth quarter. “Guys are playing with confidence. We’re guarding together.”
The Bucks on Monday also got three-point shooter Grayson Allen back from an illness. He is fifth on the team in scoring (13.5).
But with starting center Brook Lopez (back surgery) out indefinitely and point guard George Hill (right knee) day to day, the Bucks have made two additions to the team within the past week, signing guard Wesley Matthews and center DeMarcus Cousins.
Between them, Matthews and Cousins have played 1,460 NBA games, including 1,293 starts.
They give the Bucks veteran depth — both came off the bench on Monday, combining for 10 points and eight rebounds in 33 minutes.
But the Bucks are still Antetokounmpo’s team as the two-time NBA MVP leads Milwaukee in scoring (27.6) and rebounds (11.8). Khris Middleton is Milwaukee’s second-leading scorer (17.9), and Jrue Holiday tops the team in assists (6.2).