Update: An MRI on Sunday revealed that Victor Oladipo suffered a torn patellar tendon in his left knee. The injury occurred during Miami’s Game 3 victory against the Milwaukee Bucks on April 22. He will miss the remainder of the postseason.
MIAMI — It was a devastating scene, one that sobered what should have been an otherwise celebratory night for the Miami Heat. With less than four minutes left in the fourth quarter of the Heat’s convincing Game 3 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, Oladipo was driving to the basket when his left knee buckled and he crumpled to the floor.
Oladipo immediately waved to the sideline for help. After all, he’s been here before. The former All-NBA guard had his career derailed by two surgeries on the quadriceps tendon in his right knee in the last four-plus years. Saturday’s injury was to his left knee, but that didn’t soften the blow to Oladipo, his teammates or his coaches.
As Oladipo sat on the ground, palms and fingers wrapped around his left knee, many of his teammates had their hands on their head, jaws dropped. Feelings of shock, disbelief, even anger visible to everyone at the arena. A stretcher came out, but Oladipo denied it — perhaps providing a shred of optimism. Instead, he walked off the court with the help of Erik Spoelstra and a member of the Heat medical staff.
“We don’t know right now,” Spoelstra said when asked about the extent of Oladipo’s injury. “We’ll have him checked out tomorrow. I feel how everyone feels. Great win, but when you see a player go down like that — particularly a player like Vic, who has gone through so much. I don’t know what it is right now.”
Oladipo was minutes away from helping the Heat tie a knot on an impressive Game 3 win and 2-1 series lead over the No. 1 seed Bucks. Oladipo had eight points, two rebounds, one assist and two steals, while providing tenacious defense, in 19 minutes off the bench.
“I feel like throwing up right now, but I don’t know what the prognosis is,” Spoelstra said.
Oladipo will undergo testing in the coming days, with the Heat scheduled to practice Sunday before Monday night’s Game 4 at Kaseya Center. No specifics about the injury, including a time table, have been provided. But considering Oladipo’s injury history, it’s understandable why teammates and coaches might immediately assume the worst.
“It’s tough, man. It’s a mix of emotions,” Duncan Robinson said. “You just kind of got a pit in your stomach after watching something like that.”
If Oladipo is sidelined, the Heat will need to find a way to replace his minutes. The Heat already have lost Tyler Herro for six weeks to a broken right hand, and Oladipo’s injury shaves another ball-handler from the perimeter rotation.
One option could be to give Haywood Highsmith a spot in the rotation. Highsmith isn’t a factor off the dribble, but he could provide a similar brand of hard-nosed defense. Another route could be to shrink the rotation. The Heat played 10 during the meaningful moments of Game 3, with Oladipo joining Robinson, Caleb Martin, Kyle Lowry and Cody Zeller off the bench. Spoelstra can shift more minutes to Jimmy Butler, Gabe Vincent, Martin, Lowry, Max Strus and Robinson.
Those are questions to answer after the Heat and Oladipo get more clarity on the extend of this injury. For now, there is still room to hope for the best, even if in their gut they fear the worst.