Miami Heat co-captain James Johnson candidly assessed his slow start to the year as “terrible” and “killing myself every day, every night” before Miami’s game at the Washington Wizards Friday night (a game I attended).
After holding himself to account, Johnson played much better Friday, scoring 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field, including two hits from downtown, five rebounds and four assists. He was back to playing as the aggressive, confident player who endeared him to so many Heat fans last year.
One reason for Miami’s uneven start after their 30-11 close to the 2016-17 season? Johnson hasn’t been the player he was last year. Before Friday’s game, Johnson had just attempted 5.8 shots per game over the past four games. Miami is ranked 26th out of the 30 NBA teams in offensive efficiency this year, failing to recapture the fun offense consisting of Goran Dragic and Johnson playmaking. Johnson took 14 shots last night, a good sign.
The four-year, $60 million man ran fast breaks, took 3-pointers with confidence (a big, important move; Johnson shot a career-high 34 percent from downtown last year) and directed offense.
The Heat’s issues still appeared last night — Miami suffered through a painfully long offensive drought in the third quarter that allowed Washington back into the game. It’s typical for the home team to make a run, but the Heat scored just seven points in the first nine minutes of the third. But Johnson helped secure Miami’s first win over a team that is currently above .500. That’s a good sign, as the Heat have lost games to the Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons and other above-.500 teams thus far.
Will James Johnson bottle this play up and help the Heat climb to and above the .500 mark? Friday night was a good start.