Injuries are a big part of the story in the lead-up to Friday’s game between the Miami Heat (31-28) and the host Atlanta Hawks (32-27) in a battle between Eastern Conference playoff contenders.
Hawks guard Trae Young, who is ranked 14th in the NBA with a 25.3 scoring average, left Wednesday’s 137-127 overtime loss to the New York Knicks due to a sprained left ankle suffered with 1:13 left in the third quarter.
X-rays were negative.
“God had my back,” Young tweeted after the game. “Be back soon.”
Young is unlikely to play against Miami, pending an MRI exam.
“It’s not something you like … but injuries are a part of it,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “Unfortunately, we’ve had a number of injuries throughout the season.”
Indeed, the Hawks are in good position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017, but they have five players besides Young on the injured list. The other injured Hawks are third-leading scorer De’Andre Hunter (knee), sixth-leading scorer Danilo Gallinari (foot), Kris Dunn (ankle), Cam Reddish (Achilles) and Tony Snell (ankle).
Young, Hunter (16.0 points), Gallinari (13.4) and Reddish (11.2) combine to average 65.9 points per game. Young also ranks third in the NBA in assists (9.6).
That’s a lot of missing firepower, and the only Hawks player yet to miss a game this season is Kevin Huerter, who is averaging 12.2 points.
The other key Hawks are John Collins (17.8 points, 7.7 rebounds), Clint Capela (leads the NBA with 14.7 rebounds per game) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (14.5 scoring average, 41.3 percent from long distance).
Miami, which has won three straight games, trails fifth-place Atlanta by just one game in the East standings.
The Heat are coming off a 107-87 win over the host San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday. It was Miami’s largest-ever margin of victory in San Antonio.
Three Heat stars — Jimmy Butler (18 points, game-high 11 assists), Bam Adebayo (game-high 23 points) and Tyler Herro (22 points off the bench) — played on Wednesday despite having nagging leg injuries as Miami started a quick two-game road trip that will end in Atlanta.
Butler had missed two straight games. Herro and Adebayo had missed one game each.
“Our leaders understand how important this road trip is,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They wanted to set the tone for us.
“Bam was really angry about not playing (Miami’s previous game, against the Houston Rockets). He really wanted to go out there and compete.”
The Heat are 14-15 on the road this season. Atlanta is 16-11 at home.
Atlanta and Miami have split two games this season, with the Hawks serving as the road team both times.
In the first game, on Feb. 28, Miami held Young to just 15 points on 3-for-14 shooting, including 2-for-8 on three-pointers. Shortly after the game, the Hawks fired coach Lloyd Pierce.
Then, on March 2, McMillan made his debut as Hawks coach, leading Atlanta to a 94-80 win over Miami. Young was again held below his scoring average. He had 18 points but also a game-high 10 assists.
Atlanta, which won despite going minus-14 on turnover margin, is 18-7 since McMillan took over as coach.
–Field Level Media