The Miami Heat caught a break versus in their game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday when Alvin Gentry announced Anthony Davis will be shut down for the remainder of the season. On the Pelicans' website their coach was quoted as saying,
"We’re going to shut him down. He’s done for the year," Gentry said. "It’s unfortunate, but he’s got an issue with his shoulder that he’s played with the whole season. It’s amazing when people talk about him being soft or whatever; they don’t understand that he’s played through a situation with his shoulder the entire season."
A report from ESPN sounds like the problem is similar to the one Tyler Johnson experienced this season,
"Davis and the Pelicans have known about the injury since his rookie season, but after consulting with team and medical officials, the 23-year-old All-Star decided to play through occasional pain. 'They told me [the shoulder surgery] eventually has to happen,' Davis said Monday. 'Gradually it's been getting worse. Something we just got to take care of now.' Davis said he has worn a special compression shirt underneath his jersey in order to 'help stabilize' his shoulder."
Miami visits New Orleans on the 22nd, which is the first part of a back-to-back set that concludes with a game in San Antonio against the Spurs, who haven't lost a single game at home this season. The Pelicans defeated the Clippers, 109-105 at home, without Davis, Ryan Anderson, Norris Cole, and several other players per the above announcement,
"Davis joins a lengthy list of New Orleans players who are out for the season. That group includes several key players from the ’15 playoff-qualifying squad, including fourth- and fifth-leading scorers Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans. A starter at small forward during the playoffs last season, Quincy Pondexter missed the entire 2015-16 campaign with a knee injury. Rookie wing Bryce Dejean-Jones also is out for the rest of this season with a broken wrist."
NBA standings as of March 22 have Hawks and Celtics with 41 wins, Heat and Hornets 40 wins each. All are within percentage points of each other. Losing both road games could place Miami in sixth place in the tight Eastern Conference race.
Coach Eric Spoelstra may juggle his player's minutes for these two games to allow for the vast difference between the skill level of the Pelicans and Spurs. Specifically should Dwyane Wade rest even after two days off? The Pelicans are another "trap game" like the Charlotte Hornets loss that still stings.
The next four opponents after the Spurs contest are the Magic, Nets, Lakers and Kings on April Fool's Day. Those winnable games are essential to gain a favorable spot following the season. The last seven games in April will not be easy as Pat Riley texted University of Miami's basketball coach, Jim Larrañaga, after their victory "Be sure your team knows when the next practice is because there’s more work to be done."
A notable oddity of the last thirteen games is the Heat face the Orlando Magic, with Heat's former draft pick Shabazz Napier, three times. Previously the Heat had to rally from a 15-point deficit to barely beat them 108-101. A record of 29-40 hides how competitive the Magic can be on any given night.
The Sioux Falls Skyforce are practically unstoppable in the NBDL with a 36-8 record and have talent waiting for their call to Miami. The Heat still have two spots available to sign players by April 12th to use their Bird Rights in 2018 contract negotiations. Along with Chris Bosh and Tyler Johnson itching to return, Spoelstra has to be prepared for April 16th, while knowing that any loss now will make his job more difficult next month.
The news of Anthony Davis surgery puts the Heat in a dangerous position of mailing in the New Orleans game. The Spurs loss to Charlotte will make the Spurs desperate for a win against the Heat. They will not tolerate two losses in a row after placing first in the latest NBA rankings, while the Pelicans proved they could win without Davis.
A win against the Spurs would settle some old scores, but at the end of the season it means the same as any other victory. Each win counts equally, whether it is against the Pelicans or the Spurs. Either way the Heat cannot think the Cavaliers victory guarantees other teams will roll over for them. More than ever Heat will be the hunted, rather than the hunters.