When the Indiana Pacers visit the Miami Heat on Tuesday night, the medical report will be at least as important as the scouting report.
The Pacers, for example, are expected to get coach Rick Carlisle back after he missed four games due to COVID-19.
In addition, Pacers point guard Malcolm Brogdon missed Indiana’s most recent game — a 122-113 win over the Detroit Pistons on Thursday — due to a foot injury. Caris LeVert stepped up in that game for the Pacers, scoring a season-high 31 points.
Brogdon leads the Pacers this season in scoring (19.7 points) and assists (6.2), and if he is unable to return on Tuesday, LeVert will become even more important.
“He has a lot of wiggle to his game,” Pacers assistant coach Lloyd Pierce said of LeVert, who ranks third on the Pacers in scoring (16.3). “He finds a way to get into the paint.”
The Pacers’ medical report also includes T.J. McConnell, who was second on the team in assists last season but is out due to a wrist injury; and T.J. Warren, who has been out since early January due to a foot injury.
With those absences, Pacers rookie Chris Duarte has emerged, tying for fourth on the team in scoring (12.9). Among NBA rookies this season, he ranks sixth in scoring.
Inside, the Pacers have a pair of stars in Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, both of whom are reportedly on the trading block as Indiana executives ponder a massive rebuild.
Sabonis leads the Pacers in rebounds (11.8) and ranks second in scoring (18.3). Turner leads the team in blocks (2.9) while scoring 12.9 points and grabbing 7.4 rebounds.
The Pacers have split their two games against the Heat so far this season, beating Miami 102-91 in overtime on Oct. 23 before falling in the rematch on Dec. 3, 113-104.
Miami, though, has been severely shorthanded of late as Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Caleb Martin, Markieff Morris and Victor Oladipo all missed Sunday’s 100-90 loss at Detroit.
Butler, Adebayo and Herro are Miami’s top three scorers, combining to average 61.8 points. Adebayo (thumb surgery) is out another couple of weeks, but the Heat are hoping Herro (quad contusion) and Butler (tailbone) can make it back in time for Tuesday.
Oladipo (knee injury), traded from Indiana to Miami last March, has been out all season. Morris (neck) has been out for weeks, and Martin is on COVID-19 protocol.
Given those absences, a lot has fallen on the shoulders of the Heat’s veteran point guard Kyle Lowry, who leads the team in assists (8.2) and ranks fourth in scoring (13.9).
But the Heat have also squeezed production out of unlikely sources such as third-year pros Max Strus and Gabe Vincent.
Strus is averaging a career-best 10.0 points, shooting 58.0 percent on two-pointers and 41.1 percent on threes.
Vincent is averaging a career-best 8.1 points while shooting 54.8 percent on two-pointers and 37.5 percent from distance.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra compared Strus and Vincent to Herro and teammate Duncan Robinson.
“They’re ignitable,” Spoelstra said. “They hit two 3-pointers, and they’re immediately thinking three, four and five.”
–Field Level Media