Miami Heat

Heat lineup getting a boost as one of its most clutch guards returned Saturday

Miai Heat’s Tyler Johnson lays on the floor after suffering an apparent leg injury against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on Jan. 15, 2018 in Chicago.
Miai Heat’s Tyler Johnson lays on the floor after suffering an apparent leg injury against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on Jan. 15, 2018 in Chicago. Getty Images

The Heat’s backcourt got a lift for Saturday night’s game against the Charlotte Hornets.

Guard Tyler Johnson was back in the Heat’s starting lineup on Saturday after missing the past five games with a left ankle sprain.

"Tyler went through great workout yesterday, following it up with shootaround this morning," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Johnson suffered the injury on Jan. 15 in Chicago when he fell to the court after a collision with Bulls center Robin Lopez.

Initially it was feared Johnson would be out for a significant amount of time.

But X-rays showed no structural damage and the Heat deemed an MRI wasn’t necessary.

Johnson, who is averaging 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 29.4 minutes per game, has also been one of the Heat’s most valuable players in clutch minutes this season. Johnson has a team-best 2.5 plus-minus rating in what the NBA deems clutch minutes which is when the margin is five points or less in the final five minutes of a game.

"Certainly you miss one of your better scorers and better energy, competitors out there, so it will be great to have him back," Spoelstra said. "That’s not the reason we lost [Thursday to Sacramento] but we would love to have him in there in the fourth quarter. He has a way of making plays down the stretch on both ends of the court."

Derrick Jones, Jr. started each of the past five games while Johnson was out as the Heat went with Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson, James Johnson and Hassan Whiteside with Wayne Ellington starting the two games Dragic sat out with a knee bruise.

Johnson has started in 12 of the past 13 games he’s played with the exception of the Heat’s game against the Pacers on Jan. 10 when he was dealing with neck spasms. Over that span, Johnson has averaged 15.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists on 46.9 percent shooting.

"[Tyler]’s aggressiveness, especially when we’re in offense he can give us different looks," Dragic said. "He can put the ball on the floor. Basically he can create from nothing a good shot for us. And his ability to defend. He’s always close to the ball. He always gets that big rebound. It’s going to be huge if he’s playing."

Ellington added: "[Having Tyler back] puts us back full force. We got our attackers back and we need that to be the type of team that we want to be with everybody on board. We’re excited Tyler is coming back and we can put everybody out there."

The Heat’s Tyler Johnson, who had made 10 consecutive starts in the absence of Goran Dragic and then Dion Waiters, was scratched from Miami’s starting lineup shortly before tip-off with a left shoulder strain.

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