Charlotte Hornets small forward Nic Batum will miss at least Game 3 of the playoff series versus the Miami Heat after being diagnosed with a left foot strain.
The nature of the injury was detected Thursday when Batum underwent an MRI. Game 3 is 5:30 p.m. Saturday (TNT) at Time Warner Cable Arena.
The Hornets say they will continue treating Batum and will re-evaluate his status before Game 4 Monday, also in Charlotte.
Batum stepped on the foot of Heat rookie Justise Winslow and rolled his ankle. He ended up on the floor for several minutes, in obvious pain, before being helped to the Hornets’ locker room.
Teammate Al Jefferson feared the worst when asked about Batum’s injury post-game.
“I feel like, me personally, I don’t think he’ll be able to come back” for the rest of this playoff series, Jefferson said.
The Hornets trail the Heat 0-2 in the best-of-7 series.
The Hornets acquired Batum last June in a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers. They sent Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh to Portland for a player they felt could facilitate their offense in a point-forward type of role.
Batum excelled in that role, averaging 14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists.
Batum will be an unrestricted free agent in July and is considered the Hornets’ top off-season priority among several Charlotte players with expiring contracts.
Batum sprained his left ankle April 11 in the second-to-last game of the regular season. He sat out most of the second half of that road victory over the Boston Celtics. Batum then sat out the regular-season finale, a home victory over the Orlando Magic two nights later.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell