December 6, 2022

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Heat’s Adebayo, Tucker expected to return in Game 1 vs. Hawks

The Miami Heat’s hope was that sidelined starters Bam Adebayo and P.J. Tucker would be ready to return for the start of the playoffs. It looks like the Heat’s hope will become a reality.

Adebayo was cleared to rejoin the team on Saturday after entering the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols last Sunday. He’s expected to be available for Game 1 of the Heat’s first-round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday at FTX Arena (1 p.m., TNT and Bally Sports Sun).

Tucker, who missed the last two regular-season games with a strained right calf and was limited in practice this week, said he also plans to play on Sunday. He’s listed as questionable for Game 1 on the injury report.

“It was good to get a couple days off,” Tucker said following Saturday’s practice of the Heat’s week-long break between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs. “For everybody to be able to try to get as healthy as possible and do everything we can to get our bodies right. We’ve had some really good practices and some good focus sessions this week.”

The rest of the Heat’s injury report includes Markieff Morris (left hip flexor strain), Haywood Highsmith (left hip flexor strain) and Dewayne Dedmon (right ankle sprain), who are all questionable. Gabe Vincent is listed as probable with a right big toe contusion.

But for a team that battled injury issues throughout the season, the expectation is the Heat will open the playoffs with its entire 15-man roster available for Game 1 unless one of those injuries flares up ahead of tipoff. Two-way contract players are not eligible to participate in the playoffs.

“It was a really boring process,” Adebayo said of spending the week away from the Heat while in protocols. “But it’s good to be back around the team, it’s good to be back in this environment. It’s one of those things when you’re gone for a couple days, you start to realize how much you need to cherish the moments.”

Adebayo said he was asymptomatic after testing positive for COVID-19. While quarantined, he worked to maintain his conditioning with a VersaClimber he has in his house and stay in the loop by “keeping in contact with my teammates” and “obviously talking with [coach Erik Spoelstra].”

On the other side, the Hawks are dealing with their own injury issues.

Hawks starting center Clint Capela left Friday night’s play-in win over the Cleveland Cavaliers early because of a hyperextended right knee, as ESPN reported an MRI on Saturday revealed no structural damage and he’s expected to be re-evaluated in a week. Capela has already been ruled out for Game 1, and he could miss most of the first-round series with the first four games played over the next week.

But the Hawks could get starting forward John Collins back. Collins, who has not played since March 11 because of a sprained right ring finger and a strained right foot, has been upgraded to questionable for Game 1.

“You prepare accordingly,” Spoelstra said of preparing for a short-handed Hawks team. “You have to anticipate that those guys will be available at some point in the series. So it’s about whatever is necessary.”

The only other player on Atlanta’s injury report is reserve guard Lou Williams, who will miss Game 1 with low back discomfort.

MORE START TIMES SET

The schedule for the first round of the playoffs is becoming clearer, as the NBA announced the start times for more games.

Following Sunday afternoon’s Game 1 in Miami, Game 2 will be played on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at FTX Arena (TNT and Bally Sports Sun). The series then shifts to Atlanta for Game 3 on Friday at 7 p.m. (ESPN and Bally Sports Sun) and Game 4 on Sunday at 7 p.m. (TNT and Bally Sports Sun).

The start times of Games 5 (April 26 in Miami), 6 (April 28 in Atlanta) and 7 (April 30 in Miami), which will only be played if the series goes that far, have not yet been announced.

This story was originally published April 16, 2022 1:55 PM.

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Anthony Chiang covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and was born and raised in Miami.