MIAMI - Since breaking his hand in the first round of the NBA playoffs, Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro has been relegated to offering his teammates support in conspicuously gaudy outfits - topics of much conversation - from the sidelines.
The Heat would much rather have their 20-point scorer on the court. But, his return is still pending, and though Miami is holding out hope that Herro could play basketball again this season, he is running out of time and games.
The NBA Finals head to Miami on Wednesday with the series against the Denver Nuggets tied 1-1. Miami's Eric Spoelstra said Herro was to do a full-contact workout Tuesday, but the veteran coach remained noncommittal on the player's possible return. Herro hasn't yet been cleared to play.
"I don't want to be Nostradamus right now. We're taking it one day at a time," Spoelstra said. "I know that sounds like a cliché. He did the practice with the group ... we'll meet with the training staff later on today and probably tomorrow, and we'll just continue this process. He has not been cleared yet, so that's where we are, but we're encouraged by the work that he's been doing."
Herro was diving for a loose ball late in the second quarter of the Eastern Conference playoff opener against the Milwaukee Bucks when the injury to his right hand occurred. He re-entered the game, but was leaning forward in obvious pain in front of Miami's bench in the final minute of the first half.
"I feel like I had some things to prove this postseason," Herro said in April. "It was a tough moment. I still can't believe it."
He had surgery on April 21 for the fracture, with a four-to-six week recovery timetable, making a finals return possible.
"He's another guy that provides so much shot-making, playmaking ability," forward Kevin Love said. "You saw in Game 1, we got cold from the 3-point line, didn't shoot the ball particularly well from the field. He's just one of those guys that provides so much firepower."
Losing such a pivotal piece of their offense - their third-leading scorer behind Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo - seemed like a blow that would prematurely end the Heat's postseason run.
But they just keep winning.
They eliminated the top-seeded Bucks in five games, handled the New York Knicks in six, and recovered from blowing a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals against Boston to advance to the championship series for the second time in four seasons.
Players like Caleb Martin, Gabe Vincent and Max Straus, have delivered in Herro's absence.
Vincent is Miami's third-leading postseason scorer with 13.9 points and 3.9 assists in 31.6 minutes. And Martin, undrafted out of college with a stint in the G League, was the breakout star of the conference finals with 19.3 points on 60% shooting, including a playoff career-high 26 points at Boston in Game 7.
"I'm so happy for the city of Miami," Butler said Wednesday. "This organization, they deserve to be in the finals. They deserve to win the finals and win a championship, and we will do everything in our power to make that happen."
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