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After spending nearly all season proving durable with their health and resiliency, the Miami Heat suddenly cracked at the exact wrong time.
The Heat hobbled through a 116-98 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday, partly because Miami suffered various injuries to starters Goran Dragic, Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler.
Dragic has suffered a plantar tear in his left foot, two people familiar with his injury told USA TODAY Sports. The two persons spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the severity of the injury publicly.
Adebayo missed the final 18 minutes of Game 1 after straining his left shoulder, though the Heat said x-rays came back negative. And Butler hobbled through a left ankle injury that he described as “a little bit sore” after twisting it on two different plays.
Dragic’s injury appeared to be the most serious after he missed the entire second half. But the point guard can still can put pressure on his left foot and plans to receive ice and treatment on Thursday in hopes to play Game 2 on Friday.
“Be ready to go with or without Goran. We’re still expecting to win,” said Butler, who had 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting and five assists in 33 minutes. “We still know that we can. We want that guy out there with us. He’s a big part of what we’re trying to do, but until we can have him back, we got to go out there and we got to fight even harder. We got to try to cover up what he gives us and make up for it. We’re capable of it. We have to be capable of it. Moving forward with or without Goran we better hurry up and tie it up 1-1.”
Good luck. The Lakers easily overcame a 13-point first-quarter deficit after LeBron James posted a near triple double in points (25), rebounds (13) and assists (nine), while Anthony Davis dominated inside with 34 points along with nine rebounds and five assists.
Part of that stemmed from the Lakers’ stellar play. Part of that stemmed from Adebayo’s absence. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra expressed uncertainty on if Adebayo aggravated a previous left shoulder injury, or if this ailment happed on a play in Game 1. Either way, the Heat struggled without having a definitive center to handle the Lakers’ frontcourt.
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Butler still tried to fulfill his job description. But he went to the locker room with 12 seconds left in the first half after landing awkwardly on his left ankle following a drive. He appeared limited all game, but that did not deter Spoelstra from inserting Butler as the Lakers held a 100-81 lead with 7:39 remaining in the game. Moments later, Butler made another twisting turn on his left ankle.
“A little bit sore. I’ll be okay with some treatment,” Butler said. “I’ll get ready to go again. I think I got to be ready to go. So we’ll see how it feels tomorrow, but I’m going to be fine.”
The Heat has held out the same level of optimism for Dragic.
“Just let him know that I and we are here for him,” Butler said. “We know how much he wants to win, how much he wants to go to war and battle with us. Obviously we love him for that and we want him out there with us. But whatever the doctor tells him to do, that’s what he’s got to do. I understand that he wants to go out there and compete and obviously we want him out there with us. But he got to take care of himself first.”
Contributing: Jeff Zillgitt in Lake Buena Vista, Florida
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