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How will the Heat handle the grueling January schedule to stay in the playoff picture?

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The recent tight rotation may not be a sustainable winning strategy in the next few weeks.

NBA: New York Knicks at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat are on a current high with their recent performances, but is a hangover coming up? In their thrilling win over the New York Knicks, Josh Richardson played 40 minutes, Goran Dragic 40, Wayne Ellington 36, Kelly Olynyk 35, Tyler Johnson 33, and James Johnson 33. With an intense January slate of games coming up, that crew alone may simply become exhausted playing night after night at a high level.

The win against the Knicks showed how defense can become a problem as fatigue shows up later during a game. In the first half Miami played great defensively and everyone had a plus net rating. In the second half New York made some adjustments to break down Miami’s defense, but not enough to win the game.

Defensive and Net Ratings First versus Second Half

PLAYER MIN DEF1 NET1 DEF2 NET2
PLAYER MIN DEF1 NET1 DEF2 NET2
Derrick Jones Jr. 9 92.8 18.4 0.0 0.0
Wayne Ellington 36 87.4 16.0 115.8 -17.4
Bam Adebayo 14 86.6 14.1 105.1 -34.3
Kelly Olynyk 34 94.8 12.1 125.0 -16.9
Tyler Johnson 33 99.8 10.7 116.8 -35.0
James Johnson 32 90.5 10.5 113.5 -11.8
Hassan Whiteside 23 96.2 9.4 129.8 -32.3
Josh Richardson 40 89.5 8.0 124.8 -22.3
Goran Dragic 39 92.7 6.6 118.1 -5.8
AVERAGE 92.3 11.8 118.6 -22.0

After the intermission everyone on Heat team regressed significantly on the defensive end. Being a tired wasn’t the main cause, but second half defense in tight games demands an extraordinary amount of effort.

After the Utah Jazz game on Sunday, the Heat play a back-to-back set against the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers. Then Miami has 5 games in 7 days, Jan. 14 through Jan. 20, where a tight rotation might cause second-half implosions on defense in a game or two. By then though, Justise Winslow, and maybe Dion Waiters, might return to help out in keeping players fresher.

Other options include doing something with A.J. Hammons spot on the roster and using both two-way contracts as safety values for the allowed number of available days. Either way, the team has to stay healthy for the playoffs, if and when they participate in post-season action.

In Friday’s game Hassan Whiteside saw only 23, Bam Adebayo 15, and Jordan Mickey zero minutes of action. Seems like coach Erik Spoelstra went guard heavy for the game. The strategy worked for that game, but going forward it can wear out the overworked players come time for post-season action.