Miami Heat's Kyle Lowry cleared to return, will start Game 3 vs. Philadelphia 76ers
The Miami Heat cleared Kyle Lowry to start in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Philadelphia 76ers. The six-time All-Star has missed their last four games with a left hamstring strain.
Lowry suffered the injury 23 minutes into an eventual one-point loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round. That marks Miami's only defeat of the playoffs. The Heat eliminated the Hawks in five games and have won their first two games against a Sixers team that has been without Joel Embiid (orbital fracture).
Game 3 in Philadelphia is scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. ET (ESPN).
Sources told Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes earlier this week that Lowry has been itching to get back on the court, and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra insisted they would not clear him based on the status of their series.
Lowry, who helped the Toronto Raptors win the 2019 NBA championship, turned 36 years old in March. His 13.4 points per game in 63 appearances during the regular season is his lowest scoring average since he became a full-time starter for the Houston Rockets in 2010, and he scored a total of 25 points in 89 minutes over three games against Atlanta. Lowry remains a high-level facilitator and capable defender who makes winning plays on both ends of the floor. His return is still a boon for a Heat team that has won without him.
Lowry primarily defended slashing guard Tyrese Maxey in three games against the Sixers during the regular season, and he spent just 94 seconds guarding James Harden, according to the NBA's tracking data.
Miami's PJ Tucker and Victor Oladipo have drawn the bulk of minutes defending Harden, helping to hold the one-time MVP to 18.8 points per game on 40.2% shooting from the field. Oladipo, who has played 60 regular season games since suffering a knee injury in January 2019, including eight this year, has performed well as Lowry's replacement over the past four games, averaging 13.3 points in 28.6 minutes per outing.
It remains to be seen how Spoelstra will allocate minutes, given Oladipo's impact in Lowry's absence. The job is Lowry's, as long as he is healthy, and Oladipo will become a luxury once Lowry proves he can fully handle the rigors of the playoffs. Either way, the news makes Philadelphia's 2-0 series hole appear deeper.
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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach