The Heat capped off a travel-heavy January with a 105-87 win over the Atlanta Hawks.
Miami started a West Coast swing on Jan. 8 in Phoenix and capped the six-game trip nine days later in Oklahoma City. The Heat finished the trip against some of the NBA’s best with a 2-4 record, which included losses against the Warriors and Clippers.
Then, after just one game back home — a 91-79 loss to Milwaukee — the Heat left town again for a five-game trip. In all, Miami played 12 of its 17 games in January on the road.
“I haven’t had a month like this since I’ve been coaching,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’ve had months where you’re on the road quite a bit. It’s unique being on the road for a long road trip, come back for one game and then back out again. That’s probably been the most unique thing. But, hey, keep your bags packed, let’s go.”
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Fourteen-year veteran Amar’e Stoudemire said he has never faced a stretch like that in his career. During the second road trip, Stoudemire said a 50-minute scheduled plane ride from Washington to Toronto took eight hours. The travel adds up, Stoudemire said, and “it doesn’t feel great.”
“It was just a brutal, brutal, brutal stretch for us, man,” Stoudemire said.
For rookie Justise Winslow, though, it’s the only thing he has known in the NBA. As the Heat heads toward the All-Star break, Spoelstra credited Winslow’s focus on rest and recovery.
“It’s a grind,” Winslow said. “Especially for me, it’s been a big adjustment. I’ve already played like 40-some games. Way more than college.”
Heat guard Tyler Johnson was ruled out for Sunday’s game against Atlanta as he continues to battle a sore left shoulder, but he said there are currently no plans to undergo surgery.
“If I have the possibility of making it worse by playing,” Johnson said, “that would be a time when I just shut it down. Other than that, I think we just got to take it game by game.”
Johnson said expects to have conversations about surgery with doctors as the season progresses. For now, he said he plans to continue to play when he feels healthy. He said his current goal is to make it to the All-Star break, when he’ll get some extra rest. Johnson said he will travel with the team to Houston for Tuesday’s game.
As he fights the injury, Johnson said the pain isn’t the main thing keeping him out of the Heat’s rotation. Rather, the nature of the injury restricts his shoulder movement, which in turn affects his play.
“Without those movements, I can’t be the player they expect me to be when I’m out there,” Johnson said. “If you go out there and play, it’s not like, ‘oh, his shoulder’s hurting, so we’ll give him a pass.’”
Chris “Birdman” Andersen, who was also ruled out of Sunday’s game, will continue to rehab his sore left knee with cardio work on a bicycle, Spoelstra said. Andersen has yet to resume impact work, and Spoelstra does not expect Andersen to travel with the Heat on its upcoming three-game trip.
Center Hassan Whiteside was out again with an injured hip.
“We’ll just keep reevaluating him,” Spoelstra said. “He was able to do a little bit more [Sunday].”