Jimmy Butler, shorthanded Heat take on healthy Kings

Any discussion of an upcoming NBA game has to include who is in or out of COVID protocol, and Sunday night’s visit by the Miami Heat to the Sacramento Kings is no exception.

The Kings, who are 9-12 at home this season yet started the weekend just a half-game outside the Western Conference playoff picture, are actually in good shape in terms of COVID.

Sacramento split two home games against the Dallas Mavericks this week, winning Wednesday on Chimezie Metu’s 3-pointer at the buzzer before losing Friday’s rematch. In Wednesday’s game, the Kings got Davion Mitchell, Alex Len and Louis King back from the COVID list. On Friday, Neemias Queta returned from COVID protocol, and he was the final Kings player on the list.

Shooting guard Terence Davis, Sacramento’s seventh-leading scorer at 9.5 points per game, missed Friday’s game due to left ankle soreness.

Otherwise, the Kings are healthy, which is not the case for the Heat.

In fact, Miami’s game against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday was postponed because the Heat did not have the NBA’s requirement of eight available players.

On Friday, the Heat — despite missing seven players due to COVID protocol — returned to the court and beat the host Houston Rockets, 120-110. Miami signed Mario Chalmers and Chris Silva to 10-day contracts on Friday in order to have enough players to meet the NBA’s requirements.

Heat star Jimmy Butler scored a season-high 37 points, Tyler Herro added 16 points, and Kyle Lowry added 12. Those were the only three players used by the Heat on Friday who started the season in Miami’s rotation.

«You just find a way to win,» Butler said.

Besides the COVID list, the Heat is also without two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo (quadriceps); one-time All-Star Bam Adebayo (thumb surgery) as well as role players Dewayne Dedmon (knee); Markieff Morris (neck); and KZ Okpala (wrist).

Considering all of that, it’s hard to know what to expect on Sunday.

Butler leads the Heat in scoring (23.3) and steals (2.1). He also averages 5.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists.

Lowry leads Miami in assists (8.1), and he averages 13.8 points. Herro is averaging 20.4 points, forming a dynamic backcourt with Lowry.

Wing Caleb Martin (four starts) and center Omer Yurtseven (three starts) have been forced into Miami’s lineup due to all the issues, and they have handled their expanded roles well.

But that’s typical of the Heat, who got 17 points on Friday from Kyle Guy, a former Kings guard who made his Miami debut.

«Kyle was a spark right away,» Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. «It was fun to see new guys contribute.»

Sacramento is led in scoring by lightning-fast De’Aaron Fox, who is averaging 20.2 points, which is actually down from last season (25.2). Miami will try to force him to shoot from distance, where Fox struggles (25.2 percent on 3-pointers).

Sacramento combo guard Tyrese Haliburton, who made the NBA’s All-Rookie team last season, leads the Kings in assists (6.7). He is also Sacramento’s best 3-point shooter (42.7 percent), and is averaging 13.6 points.

Other important Kings players are 6-10 center Richaun Holmes (team-high 8.7 rebounds); 6-8 forward Harrison Barnes (17.0 scoring average); and 6-4 shooting guard Buddy Hield (15.2 scoring average).

–Field Level Media