Charlotte Hornets forward Nic Batum participated fully in shoot around this morning at American Airlines Arena and plans to play tonight against the Miami Heat in Game 5 of this first-round playoff series.
Batum missed the previous two games after suffering left foot and ankle injuries in a fall during Game 2 in Miami. The swelling and discoloration in his left foot has reduced and he and coach Steve Clifford both said he’s moving well enough to be effective.
Batum has asked Clifford to not start him tonight, so as not to potentially disrupt the chemistry the Hornets established in winning Games 3 and 4 in Charlotte. But his value could be considerable, particularly as a ball-mover.
The Heat has overplayed the 3-point line defensively to great effect on the Hornets’ shooting. Batum’s ability to create easy scoring opportunities for others could be a significant boost in a game where one team or the other will go up 3-2 in the best-of-seven series.
“As long as he feels good after warming up, he’s going to try to play,” Clifford said after shootaround. “I don’t think he’ll be able to play his normal minutes.”
Clifford said his starting lineup tonight could be contingent on how Batum feels after warming up for the 8 p.m. tip-off.
“It’s a little sore, but manageable for tonight,” Batum said of his injury, as he soaked his left ankle in an ice bath. “I worked out yesterday and this morning and my ankle (felt) well.”
Batum said that when the injury occurred Sunday, he feared he’d be out for weeks.
Batum has suggested it might be best for the team if he initially plays as a reserve, rather than a starter.
“I don’t want to mess up the way we’re playing right now, because we’re rolling. I asked him to come off the bench, I don’t want to mess up what we have right now. I just want to play as much as I can and as effectively as I can.”
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