Gabe Vincent is ruled out for Thursday’s Eastern Conference finals Game 5. Here’s how the Miami Heat can replace his production.
After testing his injured ankle in a workout Thursday morning, Gabe Vincent decided he wasn’t feeling good enough to play in tonight’s Eastern Conference finals game.
Vincent was initially listed as questionable with a left ankle sprain he sustained in the fourth quarter of the Miami Heat’s Game 4 loss to the Boston Celtics on Tuesday but has been officially ruled out for Thursday night’s Game 5 in Boston. The Heat enter the matchup with a 3-1 lead in the series, needing just one win to advance to the NBA Finals.
As the starting point guard, Vincent has been an important part of Miami’s playoff run and is averaging the third-most points (13.1) on the team during the postseason, behind only Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. He’s been vital to this series, averaging 17.5 points on 58% shooting and 50% from 3-point range, and set a career-high 29 points in Sunday’s Game 3 win.
The likeliest option to replace Vincent in the starting lineup is Kyle Lowry, but coach Erik Spoelstra stopped short of naming Lowry the starter for Game 5.
“Having guys like Jimmy and Bam that can handle and shoulder a lot of those responsibilities,” Spoelstra told reporters in Boston. “Kyle, obviously, is feeling great with where he is physically. He loves to compete, loves these kind of moments and Caleb has really grown as a ball-handler, as well.”
The Heat are already short on ball-handlers, with Tyler Herro (broken hand) and Victor Oladipo (knee) having sustained longterm injuries in the first round. Now Vincent has been added to that list. Vincent ratcheted up his assertiveness on offense after Herro was broke his right hand in Game 1 in Milwaukee.
It will likely fall on everyone to pick up the slack left by Vincent in Game 5 — Lowry being the obvious candidate. But as Spoelstra suggested, the Heat are not a traditional offense run by a traditional point guard. Everyone in the starting five can make plays with the ball, particularly Bam Adebayo.
Adebayo had zero assists in Tuesday’s Game 4 loss, but had record five, nine and two assists in the series’ first three games. On Thursday, the Heat will need Adebayo’s best passing game since the first round, when he collected 10 assists in Miami’s close-out Game 5 against the Bucks.
In that game, Lowry was burdened by foul trouble and Vincent had yet to find his groove as an on-ball creator in the wake of Herro’s injury. With a chance to end the series on the road, the Heat routinely went to Adebayo as a fulcrum of offense. He was particularly effective finding Butler in high-low actions that the Heat used to score on four occasions in the fourth quarter and force overtime.
Butler, spoon-fed those nine points, finished the game with 42 points. He has not eclipsed 40 points in a playoff game since. Adebayo has yet to reach 10 assists again during this run.
To win on Thursday, the Heat will need both Butler and Adebayo to come close to those marks. Besides finding Butler as a cutter, Adebayo thrives as a table-setter for Duncan Robinson and Max Strus to tee off from 3-point range through dribble handoffs and kicks out of the short roll. Miami’s multiple-look offense requires a mix of all of it.
The Celtics appear to have rediscovered their offensive mojo in their Game 4 win, and the Heat will need to keep up. Without their third-leading scorer in this postseason, the onus trickles up — not down — to their stars.