Three things to Know: In Celtics/Heat game lacking stars, Adebayo reminds us he is one
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1) In Celtics/Heat game lacking stars, Adebayo reminds us he is one
Players sitting out games has become THE story in the NBA lately, and it washed up on the shores in Miami on Tuesday night: A young fan flew more than 4,000 miles from Argentina to see Jimmy Butler play… and he did not suit up.
Two quick things here. First, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel said Wednesday that Butler was legitimately ill and not just taking a night off. Second, the Heat organization still did right by the kid with a signed ball, a jersey and a seat upgrade.
The core issue is still there for the league: Here was a nationally televised TNT game, a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, and sitting out are Butler, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Malcolm Brogdon and Al Horford. Maybe all the injuries/issues are legitimate in this case, but the number of star players sitting out regular season games has been an epidemic this season that cheapens the value of the regular season (where the teams are making most of their money). It’s an issue.
One too often overlooked player did play — Bam Adebayo. He had 30 points and 15 boards, plus hit the game-winning jumper with :20.4 seconds left (he has become such a great shooter from 10-16 feet straight on).
Jayson Tatum looked like an MVP with everyone on the Celtics out and him still scoring 31 in the loss. Boston has been one of the best clutch teams in the NBA and they were 15-5 in games within five points in the final five minutes this season heading into Tuesday night. Now make that 15-6.
2) Anthony Davis, returns, so does Brandon Ingram; Durant, Zion still out
Tuesday night, LeBron James put on a show scoring 46, but that was not near enough — not with the Lakers’ “defense” — as the Clippers scored 77 points in the first half and ran the Lakers off their home floor 133-115.
Wednesday night, things look up for the purple and gold because the Lakers get the return of Anthony Davis. He missed 20 games with a stress reaction in his foot — the Lakers went a respectable 10-10 thanks to LeBron’s heroics — and Los Angeles needs him if they are going to make a push up the standings in a tight Western Conference.
In a soft landing spot against the Spurs, this is also the game where just traded for Rui Hachimura will make his Lakers debut.
Some other quick injury notes.
• After missing two months with a foot issue, Brandon Ingram is set to return for the Pelicans on Wednesday night. The Pelicans need him, they have gone 3-9 in January without him and Zion Williamson.
• Speaking of Zion, the team announced Tuesday that he is out for at least a few weeks with his strained hamstring. Don’t bet on him playing before the All-Star Game.
• Kevin Durant is reportedly progressing well from his sprained knee but will be re-evaluated again in a couple of weeks. He says he wants to return before the All-Star Game and play in that event.
3) Julius Randle makes All-Star case with 36 in Knicks win over Cavaliers
The coaches will have a tough time picking the Eastern Conference frontcourt All-Star reserves. Whichever player of Tatum, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid doesn’t start will obviously make the team (Kevin Durant is a lock as a starter), as will Pascal Siakam from Toronto. Jimmy Butler has been good enough if the coaches think he’s played enough games. But then the cuts get more challenging with Adebayo, DeMar DeRozan, Myles Turner.
And don’t forget about Julius Randle, who put up 36 and 13, being clutch and leading the Knicks past the Cavaliers on Tuesday night.
There are going to be some ugly All-Star snubs this season.