Sunday, the Heat was short two southpaw Slovenian point guards.
With Goran Dragic already back in Miami due to a calf injury that could keep him out a few more days, Beno Udrih wasn’t able to play after straining a neck muscle late in Friday’s win at Denver. Udrih had 11 points, 11 assists and no turnovers against the Nuggets.
Tyler Johnson got the start, just the fourth of his career, in Udrih’s place. The Heat sees Johnson as a combo guard, but has been working with him on setting up the offense for situations like this, though Dwyane Wade did most of the ballhandling early.
The absences moved rookie Josh Richardson into the rotation. Richardson, who played at Santa Fe High in Edmond, Oklahoma, had plenty of fans in the crowd, with some yelling “go Josh!” when he checked in. It was Richardson’s 18th appearance of the season, and second against Russell Westbrook, whom he called the most explosive players he’s faced so far.
Richardson played both guard positions in college, and said his primary goal at point guard in the pros is not to commit turnovers, “moving it in the flow of the offense and trying to figure out when to be aggressive.”
The Heat had only 10 players available due to all the injuries — as well as an illness to D-League callup Jarnell Stokes — and then lost Gerald Green to knee soreness at halftime, but there was some encouraging news.
Erik Spoelstra said that Josh McRoberts, who hasn’t played since Dec. 9 due to a bone bruise in his knee, made excellent progress during the trip, but still isn’t ready to play.
Spoelstra also said that an MRI on Chris Andersen’s knee was negative, and called that a “bone bruise” as well. He’ll be evaluated again when the rest of the team returns to Miami for a home game against Milwaukee, before heading back on the road for another five-game trip, this one starting Tuesday in Washington.
Green on road run
Green has some strange split statistics.
The veteran swingman had been roughly the same player whether at home or on the road during his career, until this season. Entering Sunday’s game, he had taken two more shots at home, but made nine more at home; from three-point range, he had had taken 18 more shots at home, but made one more on the road, for 39.7 percent compared to 30.8 percent at home.
That’s the primary reason why he was averaging 13.8 points on the road, up from 9.9 at home.
“I’m a guy that likes to go against the odds, you know,” Green said. “Don’t get me wrong, I like to have the crowd behind me, but I like to be the guy that makes everyone [hush]. I like to have everything go against me, it kind of gets me going.”
Green didn’t shoot well in visits to Miami with other teams, but he said the lighting and background at AmericanAirlines Arena don’t bother him.
His favorite place to shoot? “Staples Center” in Los Angeles, Green said. “I just love playing there.”
Green entered Sunday shooting 42.4 percent from behind the three-point line in Oklahoma City and, although he made one of his first two attempts from there, he was 1 of 7 overall in the first half.
Luol Deng, who spent six-plus seasons with Joakim Noah with the Chicago Bulls, connected with the injured Bulls center on Saturday to wish him well. Noah will likely miss the rest of the regular season due to shoulder surgery. When the Bulls traded Deng to Cleveland during the 2013-14 season, Noah was too emotional to speak to the media about it for several days.