One day after everything seemed to be falling into place for the Miami Heat, nabbing their 50th win of the season with a blowout victory over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night, things took a stark turn before taking on the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, April 3.
Sunday night’s game at Scotiabank Arena was a much-hyped spectacle considering it was Heat star Kyle Lowry‘s first game against his former team since joining Miami last summer, but less than an hour before tipoff, a report concerning Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra burst that excitement bubble.
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Miami Heat’s official Twitter account wrote, “UPDATE: Head Coach Erik Spoelstra (health and safety protocols) will not be available for tonight’s game in Toronto. Coach Chris Quinn will lead the team in his place.”
While numerous NBA coaches have missed time due to COVID-19, it’s been a minute since the virus has affected the Heat, and it’s the first time this season that Spoelstra has missed a game due to health and safety protocols.
The Heat declined to specify the exact reason for Spoelstra’s absence, but the announcement coincided with the team traveling across the border. “The Heat was subject to a round of COVID-19 testing upon entering Canada on Sunday in order to return home because of U.S. restrictions,” Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang reported.
Stateside, the NBA has done away with daily COVID-19 testing unless a staff member or player is symptomatic. With Spoelstra out, assistant coach Chris Quinn will take over head coaching duties.
The Heat Will Be Without a Large Chunk of Key Players on Sunday Night
While the Heat recently found a strong winning starting lineup in Lowry, Jimmy Butler, Max Strus, P.J. Tucker, and Bam Adebayo, they will have to shake things up once more on Sunday night with numerous players hitting the injury list. And they will have to figure it out without Spoelstra.
The Heat take on the Raptors without six-time All-Star Jimmy Butler (left toe irritation), a huge blow considering the wing is averaging 21.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game. Other players ruled out on Sunday night include Tucker (kee), Dewayne Dedmon (right ankle sprain), and Gabe Vincent (right big toe contusion).
The Heat enter Sunday’s game in first place in the Eastern Conference with a 50-28 record and a clinched spot in the playoffs. The Raptors are currently on a hot streak, winning their last five consecutive games, and are sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
Spoelstra Is Missing His 2nd Game in 9 Days
Coach Spo’s sudden absence on Sunday night marks the second time in nine days that he’s had to miss a game. On March 26, the Heat’s official Twitter account announced just hours before tipoff, “Head Coach Erik Spoelstra (personal reasons) will not be in attendance for tonight’s game vs Brooklyn.”
As the Heat did on Sunday night against the Raptors, Quinn took over head coaching duties. The Heat ultimately lost 110-95 to the Nets.
Per Sun Senintel‘s Ira Winderman, Spoelstra was “away from the team due to a medical procedure for one of his two sons.”
Spoelstra, 51, and his wife, Nikki Sapp Spoelstra, a former dancer for the Heat, married in 2016. Their eldest son, Santiago, was born in March 2018. Dante, their second son, was born in December 2019.
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