The Miami Heat are set to visit the Indiana Pacers on Friday night in a battle between two slumping teams.
Indiana has lost three straight games, including at home on Wednesday night, 114-111, to the Atlanta Hawks.
Friday's contest will be the second of a six-game homestand for the Pacers, whoare 6-5 in Indianapolis this season.
Miami has lost two straight games -- both at home -- and the Heat will now hit the road, where they are 7-6.
For the Heat, the focus is on getting healthier and on playing better overall.
It's possible Miami will get its leader and best player, Jimmy Butler, back on Friday. Butler, who has missed the past two games due to a bruised tailbone, leads Miami in scoring (23.6) and in steals (2.1). He also ranks second in assists (5.3).
However, center Bam Adebayo, who leads Miami in rebounds (10.2) and ranks third in scoring (18.7) and fourth in assists (3.2), won't be back anytime soon. He will have surgery on his right thumb on Sunday and is expected to miss six weeks.
"When you lose an All-Star player, it's never easy," Heat coach Erik Spoelsttra said. "But this is the league. I see a lot of teams dealing with injuries."
Indeed, Heat guard Tyler Herro returned on Wednesday after missing two games due to illness/body soreness. He had 21 points on Wednesday against the Cavaliers, and he is averaging 21.7 points.
With Adebayo out for sure and Butler's status for Friday in doubt, Herro -- just 21 years old -- is Miami's main offensive threat.
That's especially true due to Duncan Robinson's shooting slump. After making 44.6 percent of his three-pointers two years ago and 40.8 percent last season, Robinson has been true on just 31.8 percent this season.
On Wednesday, he shot 0-for-7 from the floor, including six from distance, snapping his 69-game streak with at least one three-pointer. That had been the second-longest active streak in the NBA.
Meanwhile, the Pacers got healthier on Wednesday as Myles Turner returned to the lineup after a one-game absence due to a non-COVID illness.
"He's our defensive anchor," Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon said.
Turner has had 11 games with at least three blocks this season, and he has a pair of six-block contests.
For the season, Turner is averaging 12.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and a team-high 2.8 blocks. He led the NBA last season with 3.4 blocks per game.
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle has called Turner "the best rim protector in the league."
Brogdon leads Indiana in scoring (21.0), assists (6.1) and foul shooting (87.2 percent).
Domantas Sabonis is averaging a double-double with 17.5 points, which ranks second on the Pacers, and a team-high 11.9 rebounds.
The Pacers have also gotten a boost from rookie guard Chris Duarte, who is averaging 13.0 points, ranking him fourth on the team in scoring.
Duarte had 19 points the only time Indiana and Miami have met so far this season, and that was a 102-91 overtime win for the Pacers on Oct. 23.
However, in some bad news for the Pacers, backup point guard T.J. McConnell, who is averaging 8.4 points and 4.8 assists, left Wednesday's game due to a wrist injury and did not return. Carlisle said Thursday that McConnell will be sidelined for a while with there being no timetable yet for his return.
That adds to Indiana's injury issues with T.J. Warren and Justin Holiday out longer term.
McConnell, who had four games with at least 15 assists last season, rates as a big loss.
--Field Level Media