Jusuf Nurkic returns for Suns vs. Heat after 1-game absence

Jan 29, 2024, 5:07 PM

Jusuf Nurkic #20 of the Phoenix Suns grabs a rebound in the game against the Indiana Pacers at Gain...

Jusuf Nurkic #20 of the Phoenix Suns grabs a rebound in the game against the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on January 26, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The Phoenix Suns received a big boost on the second game of their road back-to-back with the return of center Jusuf Nurkic on Monday against the Miami Heat.

Nurkic sprained his left thumb in Friday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers, and given how he was ruled out immediately in the second half, there was concern over a serious injury. He went on to not play in Sunday’s defeat versus the Orlando Magic but returns after just one game out.

It is an important return. Nurkic’s offensive role as a facilitator and playmaker allows him to initiate some offensive sets as the “hub” of the offense while also flashing into space as a bail-out option for a ball-handler to trigger movement elsewhere and keep the flow going. Defensively, Nurkic’s rim protection has been underrated all year. He can get exposed positionally with his lack of foot speed but has been better than expected as an overall defender.

The center minutes beyond Nurkic have been an issue nearly all season, increasing the level of concern when he was injured.

Nurkic this season is averaging 11.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, a block and a steal per game while shooting 49.5% from the field.

Bol Bol (right foot sprain) and Damion Lee (knee surgery) remain out for Phoenix.

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Jusuf Nurkic returns for Suns vs. Heat after 1-game absence