As was the case with Stephen Curry, our worst fears weren’t realized. Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside “only” has a sprained MCL in his right knee. That hardly means Miami is out of the woods just yet, though.
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Whiteside injured his knee during the second quarter of Miami’s Game 3 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Saturday. The league’s leading shot-blocker injured himself in an awkward collision that involved teammate Luol Deng, and following an MRI on Sunday the Heat released their official diagnosis:
INJURY UPDATE: MRI results on Hassan Whiteside’s right knee confirmed a Sprained Right MCL. He will be listed as day-to-day.
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) May 8, 2016
What isn’t included is the grade of the sprain, a level that runs from 1-3 in terms of severity. “Day-to-day” is certainly better than the two-week window the Golden State Warriors gave Stephen Curry (who sprained his right MCL on April 24) prior to their re-evaluation, but these sorts of injuries can linger for weeks, and Whiteside’s status for the rest of the Eastern Conference semifinals might be in doubt.
The Raptors lead 2-1 in the series, with Game 4 in Miami to be played on Monday. If the series goes the distance, Game 7 will be played in Toronto on May 15.
Miami responded to Whiteside’s absence by starting stalwart forward Udonis Haslem at center in the second half on Saturday, but even Dwyane Wade’s 18-point third quarter wasn’t enough to stave off Raptor guard Kyle Lowry’s brilliant return to form in the Toronto win. The Heat were dealt a break when Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas went down in the third quarter with what appeared to be a right ankle sprain, but even though replacement big man Luis Scola struggled in reserve the Raptors still dug out a tough road win.
Later on Sunday, Toronto revealed Jonas' fate:
The Raptors announced Sunday centre Jonas Valanciunas will miss the remainder of the series vs. Miami with a sprained right ankle. #RTZ
— RaptorsMR (@RaptorsMR) May 8, 2016
Though most of the storylines focused on Lowry and teammate DeMar DeRozan’s poor shooting heading into Game 3 on Saturday, the Whiteside/Valanciunas battle was easily the tipping point in Toronto’s Game 2 win, as Jonas contributed 15 points, 12 rebounds and three steals. Though Whiteside returned favor with 13 points, 13 rebounds three steals and three blocks, he was completely flummoxed by Toronto’s pick and roll attack featuring Jonas, as Miami lost a chance to put a 2-0 chokehold on its series against the No. 2 seeded Raptors.
Haslem is well-respected and remains a stellar help defender, but his work as a no-stats All-Star come in the opposite form of Whiteside’s contributions. Hassan likes to block shots and finish around the rim, while Haslem bugs opponents big and small, adding shooting range along the way.
Valanciunas will either be replaced in the lineup by Bismack Biyombo, or Scola if Raptors coach Dwane Casey prefers Biyombo’s work to come off the bench. The reserve center was not just one of the league’s best backup big men this year but one of the league’s best centers full stop, as Toronto clearly has the advantage in this unfortunate turn of events.
Whiteside, a free agent this summer that averaged 3.7 blocks per game in the regular season, was averaging 12.7 points, 12.2 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per postseason contest prior to heading into Saturday’s injury-shortened Game 3.
Valanciunas is averaging 12 points, 15.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in the playoffs, in only 28.5 minutes of playing time.
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