Butler returns to lead Heat over Magic; Cavs, 76ers win
LOS ANGELES – Jimmy Butler returned from an eight-game injury absence to post a double-double in the Miami Heat’s 93-83 NBA victory over the Orlando Magic on Sunday.
Butler, who was sidelined with a bruised tailbone, scored 17 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, handing out four assists and coming up with three steals.
His return from an injury that has seen him miss 15 games this season couldn’t have been more timely after Miami guard Kyle Lowry on Saturday joined the parade of NBA players sidelined by Covid-19 concerns.
Miami were also without regular starters Bam Adebayo and P.J. Tucker. Orlando were even more short-handed and the teams reached halftime with Miami holding a slim 42.39 lead, despite connecting on just 37.8 percent of their shots from the field.
Six three-pointers in a 30-point third quarter helped the Heat pull away. They led by as many as 18 in the fourth quarter.
Caleb Martin scored 17 points for Miami, while Omer Yurtseven scored 16 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in his first start at center because of the injuries to Adebayo and Dewayne Dedmon.
Coping with inevitable injuries has become more problematic for all teams amid the wave of coronavirus cases in the league that mirror the rise of the Omicron variant in the United States.
The Magic had six players in the league’s Covid protocols on Sunday, with another player cleared to return but still absent because of conditioning issues. Another six players were out with injuries.
“You expect the unexpected,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said.
Cavs tame Raptors
In Cleveland, the Cavaliers thrashed Toronto 144-99 in the Raptors’ first game since December 18.
The Raptors, who had three of their past four scheduled games postponed because of lack of available players, had the league minimum eight on Sunday — four on regular contracts and four signed under the league’s hardship rules.
“We haven’t done a thing since our last game,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said before the game.
Kevin Love and Darius Garland scored 22 points each for the Cavs, who tied a club record with 46 points in the third quarter.
Lauri Markkanen added 20 points for Cleveland, who drained 22 three-pointers and led by as many as 47 points in the fourth quarter on the way to their fifth straight home win.
Japan’s Yuta Watanabe posted career highs of 26 points and 13 rebounds for the Raptors, whose Covid-19 absentees included top scorer Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam.
76ers cruise past Wizards
It was another lopsided affair in Washington, where Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid scored 36 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the 76ers’ 117-96 victory over the Wizards, who were without top scorer Bradley Beal because of Covid.
The Memphis Grizzlies, who lost Dillon Brooks and two other players to Covid concerns on Sunday morning, shook off a slow start against the Kings in Sacramento to triumph 127-102.
Desmond Bane led Memphis with 28 points. Jaren Jackson Jr. added 21 and Ja Morant chipped in 18 for Memphis, who used a 40-point third quarter to take control of the contest.
Tyrese Haliburton scored 18 points for the Kings, while De’Aaron Fox added 12 in his return from Covid protocols.
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