Dwyane Wade’s return gave the Miami Heat a lift that helped snap a five-game losing streak.
But something else the Heat was missing before Friday night was the productive version of Tyler Johnson.
Johnson just hadn’t been the same over the past month since hurting his left ankle and Achilles on Jan. 15 in Chicago.
Johnson suffered the injury when Bulls’ center Robin Lopez landed on the back of his left foot.
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Since then, Johnson said he had been settling for too many shots and not driving to the basket enough, two things that changed in Friday night’s win over the Bucks in which he finished with a team-high 19 points – his highest output since the injury.
"I started attacking the basket more," Johnson said. "I think in these last couple of games that I’ve been struggling, I’ve been standing out on the perimeter to try to shoot my way out of it. A lot of it I think had to do with my ankle being a little bit sore, maybe not trusting it all the way. I’ve been putting in a lot of work to try and get that pain out and get that explosion back. I just felt like I could not get off the ground as much as I would have liked to. I just took it upon myself to be a little more aggressive."
Johnson shot 42.8 percent over his first 40 games this season. But in the seven games since getting hurt, Johnson shot only 32.2 percent.
On Friday, Johnson finished 7 of 16 from the field and made 3 of 8 from three-point range.
Johnson made it a point to attack the basket more often against the Bucks, which he said helps open up his offensive game and something the Heat needs more from its guards since losing Dion Waiters for the season with his own ankle injury.
Nine of Johnson’s 16 attempts came within four feet of the basket.
"It opens up everything and allows me to get people involved, too, kind of like how Dion would," Johnson said. "Dion was constantly attacking and putting pressure on the basket. He kind of opened things up for a lot of people. So I kind of took it upon myself tonight to try to be a little bit more aggressive. One, to try and get myself going, but two, to try and open things up."
While the performance was a positive step for Johnson, he said his ankle is better, but still not fully recovered.
"It’s getting closer," Johnson said. "It’s something you’re going to have to deal with, especially the way the injury occurred and what happened to it. It’s not a typical ankle strain. It’s different movement that kind of irritates it. I’m starting to trust it and maybe a little bit more comfortable with it."
▪ Derrick Jones, Jr. has rejoined the Heat’s G League team in Sioux Falls. Jones started Wednesday’s game and had three points and three rebounds in 18 minutes and 57 seconds. He has started eight games for the Heat since being signed to a two-way contract on Dec. 31.