Charlotte Hornets’ Nicolas Batum will be sidelined for Saturday night’s Game 3 of the best-of-seven opening-round NBA playoff series with Miami Heat due to a sprained left ankle.
After a Game 2 115-103 loss at AmericanAirlines Arena on Wednesday night, Hornets coach Steve Clifford said the team is “very concerned” about his injury, according to ESPN.
This is a crushing blow to the team, who depends heavily on the small forward’s playmaking skills as well as his shooting and defensive versatility, CBS Sports reported. It’s no surprise that the home court advantage has impacted Hornets’ performance, but with Batum out of the picture, the team’s offense may suffer significantly.
Batum rolled his ankle after stepping on the foot of Heat rookie Justise Winslow while trying to post him up outside of the 3-point arc. He was immediately taken to the locker room and was ruled out for the rest of the game, finishing with nine points on 3-of-11, shooting 34 minutes.
Hornets center Al Jefferson said during the post-game interview that the injury looks bad enough he doesn’t “think he will be able to come back” for the rest of the series.
“Looking at his ankle now, it’s pretty bad,” Jefferson said.
After an MRI confirmed Batum’s strain last Thursday, the Hornets said that his status for Game 4 on Monday will be announced as soon as possible. Meanwhile, Batum will receive continuous treatment.
The Hornets traded Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh for the 27-year-old Frenchman from the Portland Trail Blazers last June for a strong point-forward offensive role.
During the regular season, the 6’8″ small forward averaged a career-high 14.9 points and 5.8 assists with 6.1 rebounds in 35 minutes. He’s averaging 16.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in the playoffs.
A great offense facilitator, Batum is considered the Hornets’ most versatile player, according to The Charlotte Observer. But come July, he will be an unrestricted free agent.
The Charlotte Hornets and the Miami Heat will return on Friday at Time Warner Cable Arena, where they will play Game 3 on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. Game 4 happens on Monday in the Hornets’ home court at 7 p.m.