DENVER – Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro reached the six-week mark in his recovery Friday from what the team called “open reduction and internal fixation surgery of the third and fourth metacarpal of his right hand,” but the club ruled out the 23-year old for Game 2 of the NBA Finals (8 ET, ABC).
The Heat officially listed Herro as “out” on their latest injury report ahead of tipoff.
“He is progressing,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’re really encouraged by the progress. He started doing contact work as soon as we got to Denver. We have to maintain perspective. We want to be responsible about this. We’re all excited and encouraged by his progress. When we get back to Miami all we’re doing is just sticking to the process, trying to stack positive days; also understanding this is not like trying to return to a game in December. This is the Finals. So, there is a little bit of context to this.”
When Herro underwent surgery to repair his broken right hand, the team disclosed that the guard would miss a minimum of six weeks. He was cleared to resume basketball activities on May 23, but it was unclear when he would be able to return to the floor.
Ahead of the team’s 104-93 loss to the Denver Nuggets in Game 1, Spoelstra stated the shooting guard is “not there yet.”
Still hobbled, Herro certainly put in work on the court behind the scenes to get there.
After most of the Heat vacated Ball Arena at the conclusion of Wednesday’s practice, the guard reportedly participated in an extra session working to test the injured hand with the intention of rejoining teammates in live action as soon as possible. The guard participated in the team’s Saturday workout, too, in addition to grinding through similar sessions in Boston during the team’s Eastern Conference Finals series against the Celtics.
The guard’s expected return could add some punch to a Miami offense that has embarked on a slow decline over the last five games.
Herro has been sidelined since April 16 after suffering the hand injury during Game 1 of the opening round of the playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks. Yet, Miami’s offense hummed without him over the first 14 games of the postseason.
The Heat averaged 114.9 points over that span, connecting on 48% from the field with Jimmy Butler producing 29.9 points per game on 51.1% from the floor. Miami ran up a record of 11-3 over that timeframe with Herro playing just 19 minutes in Game 1 of the opening round.
The Heat seem to have hit a wall since then, offensively anyways, averaging 99.0 points on 43.6% from the field, as Butler’s scoring dipped to 21.6 points per game on 39.4% from the floor over the team’s last five outings.
Miami’s 93 points in Game 1 represented a season-low in scoring, as Max Strus, Duncan Robinson and Caleb Martin combined to contribute six points on 2-of-23 shooting. That trio averaged 40.1 points on 53.9% from the field and 43.9% from 3-point range in the Eastern Conference Finals.
So, while Miami isn’t counting on Herro providing a cure to its offensive woes, his return could certainly help because the guard poses a threat to drill 3-pointers and pull-up jumpers from just inside the arc, not to mention his skillset in the two-man game with Bam Adebayo against a Denver defense committed to slowing down Butler.
“We’ve talked about knowing he’s gonna come back at some point in this series,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said of Herro. “We know what kind of talent he is, his ability to play off the bounce, create for himself, create for his teammates and obviously shoot the 3-ball. So, if and when he becomes available, our guys will be ready from a personnel standpoint and a gameplan standpoint.”
A fourth-year veteran, Herro averaged 20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists during the regular season as Miami’s No. 3 scoring option behind Butler and Adebayo. Since Herro’s injury, the Heat have deployed four different combinations of starters over 18 games including one lineup that accounted for Butler missing Game 2 of the conference semifinals due to a sprained right ankle.
Since returning from that ankle injury, Butler has averaged 23.7 points over the last 12 games, hitting 41.9% from the floor and 30.3% from range after averaging 35.5 points over his first six appearances this postseason.
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