The Houston Rockets say goodbye to a dreadful 2021 tonight when they take on the Miami Heat in the confines of the Toyota Center.
The first hurdle tonight will be whether or not the game can actually be played as scheduled. Miami’s most recent game against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday was postponed because the Heat could not field enough players. Miami listed 12 players out due to COVID protocols and other ailments.
Among the players missing for Miami due to injury will be Victor Oladipo (hasn’t played for the team this season due to a quadriceps issue), Bam Adebayo (thumb surgery earlier this month), Markieff Morris (neck issue), and Dewayne Dedmon (MCL sprain). Both Jimmy Butler and KZ Okpala played for the Heat on Tuesday, but sustained injuries that kept them out of Wednesday’s contest (thus leading to the postponement). Both players are day-to-day.
In the COVID protocols, the Heat list P.J. Tucker, Zylan Cheatham, Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, and Udonis Haslem. Kyle Lowry is also in the protocols, but may be able to return tonight. Miami canceled their Thursday practice in Houston, so that muddles things as well.
Miami has brought in several players over the past 24 hours through 10-day and hardship contracts. They include familiar names like Mario Chalmers and Nik Stauskas, as well as Kyle Guy and Haywood Highsmith. All four should be available tonight, and as of right now the rest of the rotation includes Butler (if available), Caleb Martin, Omer Yurtseven, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and Marcus Garrett.
So all things considered, Miami is dealing with a typhoon of issues, while Houston will be missing Jae’Sean Tate, D.J. Augustin, and Garrison Mathews. Houston owns the better of Miami or Brooklyn’s first round picks, so a win today would help the team in that regard. Nevertheless, Houston is the more healthy and full team. This is an incredibly winnable game, especially if Butler and Lowry are out.
And finally, happy new year! Hopefully 2022 treats us all better than 2021 did.
Update: Both Lowry and Tate are cleared to play tonight.
Tip-off is at 6pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest