Jonas Valanciunas received a grim injury update on Sunday, one that’s putting a damper on the team’s 2-1 series lead over the Miami Heat.
The Toronto Raptors center sprained his right ankle, an injury that will keep him out for the rest of the series at least, and possibly longer if the Raptors were to advance. Valanciunas had been a huge part of his team’s success so far this postseason, averaging 18.3 points and 12.7 rebounds in the series while shooting just under 65 percent from the field.
But as Sportsnet noted, the big man’s presence was felt far beyond the stat sheet.
“However’s it isn’t just the numbers that has been so impressive, it’s more the overall supremacy he’s exuded over Miami’s frontline from both a talent and basketball IQ standpoint. No matter who has tried to defend Valanciunas on the Heat, he’s managed to find different ways to beat them time and again.”
It is a blown opportunity for the Toronto Raptors, who had a chance to dominate inside as Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside will also be out. He collided awkwardly with teammate Luol Deng in his team’s Game 3 loss, and an MRI on Sunday revealed that the league’s leading shot blocker has a sprained right MCL.
Valanciunas had been playing very well against Whiteside and done even better against backup Udonis Haslem, a forward playing out of position.
While much of the attention after Game 2 was focused on Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan’s shooting woes, Yahoo Sports noted that the real turning point of the game was Valanciunas’ domination of Whiteside. The Heat had no answer for the pick and roll with Valanciunas at the top, allowing the Raptors to claw their way back into the series.
Jonas Valanciunas will be out the rest of the Heat series with a sprained ankle, which he suffered in Game 3. https://t.co/FRHzs2OLPg— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) May 8, 2016
The Heat took advantage almost immediately with Jonas Valanciunas out of the lineup in Game 3, roaring back from 13-point deficit to tie the game at 68-68 on their final possession. The disparity of play with Valanciunas out of the lineup compared to when he’s in it could spell major trouble for the Toronto Raptors going forward.
The injury update for Jonas Valanciunas means that Bismack Biyombo and Luis Scola will be faced with an even bigger task of trying to fill his shoes. Biyombo did well in the team’s first-round series against the Indiana Pacers, but the Miami Heat are a much better team offensively than the Pacers.
That could mean big problems going forward for the Raptors, Sportsnet noted.
“This issue of only really being able to play Biyombo in small doses is compounded by Scola’s struggles that make him virtually unplayable. The Argentine got his first dose of action in the series Saturday after five straight games that saw Raptors coach Dwane Casey leave him on the bench. He ended up picking up three fouls in five minutes, missing both shots he took to bring his shooting percentage in these playoffs down to an almost unfathomably bad 18.8 per cent.”
The Toronto Raptors are expected to have a further update on Jonas Valanciunas and his injury in the coming days, but he would not be able to make it back until at least after this series has ended. And with a big challenge ahead, that is seeming less and less likely.
[Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images]