- Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.
MIAMI — Heat guard Kyle Lowry will not play in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers as he continues to recover from a left hamstring injury, the team announced Sunday.
Lowry has not played since injuring the hamstring during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Atlanta Hawks on April 22.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said that while Lowry continues to make progress, it remains uncertain when he will be able to play in this series.
“I’m not even going [on] any kind of timetable,” Spoelstra said after Sunday’s practice. “I know he’s doing more. Gym has been great. Everybody’s been able to do something and to prepare for the series.”
The Heat listed Jimmy Butler as questionable with right knee soreness, but Butler said Saturday that he would be ready for Game 1. Tyler Herro is questionable after dealing with a cold the past few days but said Saturday he would play. P.J. Tucker (calf), Caleb Martin (ankle), Max Strus (hamstring) and Markieff Morris (non-COVID illness) are all also questionable for Game 1.
No matter who is on the floor, Spoelstra and his team remain confident that they will be ready for the challenge that awaits them against a Sixers squad playing at least the start of the series without Joel Embiid, who is out because of a concussion and orbital bone fracture.
“Look, we’ve had so many different rotations and lineups during the course of the year that we’ve been forced to stay in the present moment,” Spoelstra said. “And we have great care and empathy for the guys that have missed time, but we just have to totally lock into who’s available. Everybody else is ready to go. And we have a big challenge.
“This is a series that could potentially change, both sides, three or four times. It could feel totally different by the middle of it, so that’s why you can exhaust yourself with all the different hypotheticals. We basically know, both teams, who’s going to play Game 1, and that’s the way it should be. You shouldn’t be thinking about Game 2, Game 3, Game 4, anything past that. Just embracing the competition and what’s ahead.”
As Heat center Bam Adebayo said after Sunday’s practice, “I feel like the rest of the team is built for it,” in regard to everybody else being able to pick up the slack when a teammate goes down.
Despite Embiid’s absence, at least to start the series, Spoelstra has a strong belief that the Heat will not lose focus or let down.
“When you build those habits for weeks and months during the course of the regular season, it just becomes who you are,” Spoelstra said. “Now you add that to the guys we’ve added to our team this year, who already are wired like that, hard-wired. P.J.’s like that, Kyle Lowry’s just — he’s as crazy as we are, in terms of detail and holding people accountable to every small thing, starting with just high-level competition. That just has a 10 times the effect on everybody else.”
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