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ASK IRA: Could this be a Heat moment of truth on dual levels for Victor Oladipo?

Q: Victor Oladipo will be the most important player off the Heat bench. His defense will greatly help against Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart. That definitely will help Butler. Hopefully Tyler Herro comes through, but Victor will shine if given the minutes. – Juan, Miami Beach.

A: That is a lot to be putting on Victor Oladipo plate, considering he continues to acknowledge that he remains in the process of rehabbing from last May’s quadriceps surgery. Plus, this is, by far, the deepest he has gotten in the playoffs in his career, so we still don’t know the degree, even if fully healthy, he is up to such challenges. I don’t view Victor as a Tyler Herro replacement. Tyler has to be close to the top of his game for the Heat to thrive in this series. Basically, with Kyle Lowry out for the start of this series, what Victor has to be is a Gabe Vincent replacement on the second unit, with Gabe moved up with the starters. If he meets just that mandate, it would be a net gain.

Q: Ira, do you think that Caleb Martin could become a larger factor in this series with the Celtics due to his defensive abilities or do you think that his recent 3-point shooting woes will keep him more on the bench? There was a good part of the season where he was an integral part of the rotation. Will he get another chance in this series? – Brent, Wellington.

A: I believe he will, especially with a rotation spot opened up by the absence of Kyle Lowry. With Kyle out, it likely will come down to either Caleb Martin or Duncan Robinson. And if Caleb can hit shots, then he would have a clear advantage. For as much as Duncan could stretch the Celtics’ defense, he would, in turn, give Boston a definitive point of attack against the Heat defense.

Q: Ira, with the injury history of Kyle Lowry, and Chris Paul not doing it, perhaps the past prime point guards are not where to go. – Martin.

A: And you might be right in terms of aging point guards simply being betrayed by their bodies at such deep stages of season. We saw it with Tim Hardaway, as well, toward the end of his Heat tenure. Then again, Goran Dragic was one of the Heat’s best players in the 2020 playoffs . . . until injury also caught up.

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