Saturday, June 25, 2022

What Happened to Heat Star PJ Tucker in Game 7?

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During the Miami Heat’s heartbreaking 100-96 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the team’s forward PJ Tucker suddenly knocked out and took the bench seat 8-28 in the third quarter. The 37-year veteran, the Heat’s toughest defender, never returned to play, nor did the Heat divulge why.

Tucker’s absence was quickly noticed by analysts and fans, but the matter was not raised until Heats head coach Erik Spoelstra’s post-game press conference on Sunday, May 27.

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“I don’t want to speak on behalf of our players. But Tucker, he’s a Miami Heat guy,” Spoelstra said. “I would say for the majority of that playoff run, he was just willing to go out there and do what he does best.”

“Probably five or six times the coaches said to me, ‘I don’t think Tuck is going tonight.’ And I was joking with you all the time about it. I couldn’t ask him how he was and I couldn’t ask the coaches before him how he was. He just has an incredible will within him to overcome whatever he’s feeling.”

Tucker was listed as questionable (knee irritation) to play before Game 7, and like most of the Heat roster during the postseason, he played in pain. During Game 2 against the Celtics, Tucker retired in the third quarter with a bruised left knee.

Yahoo! Sports Chris Haynes tweeted on May 19 “Sources: PJ Tucker suffered the injury early in the first quarter and was trying to play through it. With a brief turnaround in this series and the matchup woes Boston brings, an absent Tucker would be devastating for Miami.”

Tucker came back with a vengeance in Game 3, amassing 17 points with seven rebounds and three steals. But before Game 4 against the Celtics, Tucker was spotted wearing protective gear during the morning shooting. Ira Winderman from Sun Sentinel tweeted At the time, “I was told that in today’s shootaround, PJ Tucker wasn’t the aircast but ‘jet boat that helps circulate the blood’ the contraption.”

Tucker was active in Game 4, but like almost every Heat player in that embarrassing 102-82 loss, his numbers took a big dip. Tucker had zero points with three rebounds and a steal. Tucker fought offensively again in Game 7, putting on another goose egg before going to the bench.

The 6-foot-5 defensive anchor, who notoriously refuses to take veteran rest days and appeared in 70 regular-season games (of which 71 started), had to miss the final two games of the regular-season after losing a suffered a leg injury. According to a league source, it was considered “a Class 1 calf strain, or the least severe on that scale,” the Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang reported in April, which usually heals in seven to 10 days, according to VeryWell Health.

With the Heat entering the postseason ranked No. 1 in the East and not required to participate in the play-in tournament, Tucker received nearly two weeks of rest before the team’s first round playoff game on Sunday, April 17. As Spoelstra mentioned during his postgame conference after Game 7, he addressed Tucker’s status at the time with humor.

“It’s encouraging,” Spoelstra said April 13 of Tucker being a limited participant in training. “He’s being treated 24 hours a day. From the night he was injured to what he told me today as he left the pitch, his message was the same. He’ll be ready and not thinking differently with a few other expletives.”

With Jimmy Butler struggling with a knee injury, Kyle Lowry clearly struggling with his hamstring injury, Tyler Herro, the NBA’s 2022 sixth man of the year missing three games with a groin injury, and Max Strus’ shooting weakness, Tucker’s illness wasn’t there at the forefront of the Heat’s problems — a great testament to the veteran’s resilience.

“For the last two series, it’s been a daily meeting with the training staff to take stock of where the guys have been,” Spoelstra said after the Heat season wrapped.

“But these guys are so committed to the challenge that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get out of there and compete physically at a high level and really compete. It just shows you the mental toughness of the guys in the dressing room.”

CONTINUE READING: Heat: Analyst suggests Kyle Lowry’s weight-tugging playoff performance

“But these guys are so committed to the challenge that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get out of there and compete physically at a high level and really compete. It just shows you the mental toughness of the guys in the dressing room.”



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