Some Heat notes moments before Wednesday’s critical game in Charlotte:
• With Luke Babbitt sidelined by a hip flexor, Erik Spoelstra has opted to start James Johnson for the first time this season.
Johnson, who has had a career year off the bench, said earlier this evening that starting for him “wouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary” and it makes no difference to him.
He made 140 starts earlier in his career.
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Miami has only 10 players available. Chris Bosh (obviously), Justise Winslow, Josh McRoberts, Dion Waiters and Babbitt ware sidelined.
Babbitt missed seven games with a hip flexor earlier this season.
• Hornets coach Steve Clifford said the extended absence of injured guard Dion Waiters “has hurt [the Heat]. He was their second best player this year [behind Hassan Whiteside]. Goran Dragic was a close third. Waiters was their go-to guy down the stretch.”
Clifford said Whiteside “has closing speed almost like nobody I’ve ever seen. He makes the game different. Sometimes he’s so dominating as a defender it takes your team a few minutes to adjust to him because plays that are there every other night are blocked shots.”
• Not only would the Heat definitely lose a tiebreaker to Charlotte if the Hornets beat Miami on Wednesday, but a loss also would mean that Miami would lose a three-team tiebreaker if Indiana, Miami and Charlotte finish tied for the final playoff spot. If Miami wins Wednesday, the Heat would win that three-team tiebreaker.
• Two injury updates that could affect the playoff race: CSN Chicago said Dwyane Wade will return Saturday from an elbow injury. And Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, who hadn’t played since the All-Star break with a wrist injury, said he will play Wednesday and thus be available for Friday’s game against Miami.
Please see my earlier post from today with news on Shane Battier and a teammate wanting to get Hassan Whiteside more involved late in games.