The Miami Heat’s Saturday night victory over the Los Angeles Clippers gave Erik Spoelstra 455 regular season wins, one more than Pat Riley attained as a Heat coach. Spoelstra’s best moments as the Heat coach came in the aftermath of setbacks — using the pace-and-space offense after the first Big Three era team in 2010-11; going small after Chris Bosh’s playoff injury in 2012; remaking Miami’s offense to go 30-11 to close out last year.
Now, the Heat coach faces his latest test, and it’s a tough one. How does Spoelstra help his team stay afloat with so many damn injuries?
INJURY UPDATE: Results of James Johnson’s MRI showed right ankle bursitis. Johnson is expected to miss 7-10 days and will not travel with the team to Atlanta and Boston.— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) December 17, 2017
Heat could field a decent lineup of inactive players Monday in Atlanta, with the sidelined including Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, Justise Winslow, Rodney McGruder and Okaro White. Oh, and then trip to Boston follows Wednesday.— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) December 17, 2017
Now, Justise Winslow will travel with the team to Atlanta for tomorrow’s game against the Hawks. And though he did not play, Winslow was listed as questionable before Saturday night’s game against the Clippers. But even if Winslow plays, Spoelstra will need to rethink his rotation with Johnson out for the next few games. Okaro White, who would normally be next up on the depth chart, had foot surgery in November.
Spoelstra started Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo alongside each other in the second half last night, after Johnson sustained his injury. And Jordan Mickey, a seldom-used forward until this weekend, has provided some admirable play in Miami’s last two games. Mickey scored eight points Friday night against the Charlotte Hornets — playing after Olynyk and Adebayo each committed two fouls in the first quarter — and then scored nine points Saturday.
Mickey will probably get more minutes, and we may even see some Udonis Haslem with Johnson out. Spoelstra may also experiment with using Josh Richardson as a nominal power forward, especially when the defensive match-up poses less of a challenge for Richardson.
The Heat are back above .500 for the first time since Nov. 26 and have won four of their last five games (and that’s including Wednesday’s collapse against the Portland Trail-Blazers). Miami is just a half-game out of the eighth seed. With all these injuries, it’s up to Spoelstra to build on this success and get into the playoff picture.