Josh Richardson only missed one game in the regular season because of injury.
Despite being diagnosed with a sprained left shoulder and missing practice Monday afternoon, the Heat’s starting small forward is planning to maintain his perfect attendance in the playoffs.
“Everything in me wants to play tomorrow. I’m definitely going to give it my best shot,” Richardson said before the Heat left South Florida Monday afternoon for Philadelphia and a Tuesday night date with the Sixers in Game 5 of their opening round playoff series.
“It feels good right now. I’ve been getting a lot of treatment today. We’ll see what happens.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Although he has not shot the ball in these playoffs (38.5 percent from the field, 37.8 percent from three-point range) nearly as well as he did in the regular season (45.1 percent from the field, 37.8 percent from three), Richardson has been arguably the Heat’s best defender in the playoffs, holding the players he guards to 30.6 percent shooting (15 of 49).
Only Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid has a better field-goal differential on shots defended (minus 18.5 percent) in the playoffs than Richardson (16.7 percent) among players to defend at least 30 shots.
“At this point of the season, if you lose anybody that’s supporting your team and that’s in the rotation, it’s a big loss for anyone,” Dwyane Wade said of Richardson. “But we move on to the next guy and the next guy steps and does his job. So we hope that’s not the case. But if it is the case, we got to figure out who’s going to step in and do their job and we go from there.”
Richardson set a new franchise playoff record for steals in Game 4 with 7 and is tied with John Wall for the most by any player in the playoffs with 11. He’s also second in deflections behind Wall (24) with 19.
“I've been trying to be very aggressive and disruptive on the defensive end,” Richardson said. “It's good to be able to have a playoff record for something.”
REDUCED ROLES COULD CHANGE
If Richardson is unable to play, two key rotation players who have seen their roles reduced in this series, Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington, could see more playing time.
“It could change,” Spoelstra said of Ellington and Johnson’s role in Game 5. “That's the thing about the playoffs. You saw Hassan play limited minutes the first three games. He just played 26. I'm open to anything right now. It's just the way those games have gone. It has nothing to do with a lack of confidence or anything. Quite the contrary.”
Although he's still starting for the Heat, Johnson is averaging 13 fewer minutes per game in the playoffs and averaging only six points despite shooting the ball better (46.7 percent from the field) than he did in the regular season (43.5 percent). He’s played only three minutes total in the fourth quarter of this series. He was sixth on the team in fourth quarter minutes in the regular season.
Ellington, meanwhile, is averaging six fewer minutes (20.0) and nearly four fewer points (7.5) per game in these playoffs even though he's shooting nearly the same exact percentage (39.1) from three-point range as he did in the regular season (39.2 percent).
Ellington, who produced the most three-pointers in NBA history off the bench and set a new franchise-record for threes in a regular season (227), was also the Heat's leading scorer in total points in the fourth quarter in the regular season (287). In this series, he's played just 17 minutes in the fourth quarter (seventh-most on the team) and is 1 of 4 from the field (1 of 3 on threes).
Defensively, Johnson has done a better job (the Sixers are 13 of 27 on shots he has defended, 44.5 percent) than Ellington (the Sixers have made 15 of the 26 shots they’ve taken with Ellington guarding them, 57.7 percent).
EMBIID VS. WHITESIDE
Although it’s only a two-game sample size, Embiid has not had a lot of success against Heat center Hassan Whiteside in this series.
In the 60 possessions Whiteside has defended him, according to Second Spectrum, Embiid has scored 10 points on 1 of 10 shooting from the field (0 for 5 on three-pointers) and turned it over six times. Whiteside, though, has sent Embiid to the free-throw line five times while drawing only one offensive foul on the Sixers' All-Star center.
“It's not ever a 1-on-1 matchup, and that's important to understand,” Spoelstra said. “They don't run actions just for one guy. It will end up at the very end in Embiid's hands, but you still have to be able to disrupt him. Hassan is one of the best defenders in the league. That's what is required in this series. We need him to be his best version on that side of the floor.”
On the flip side, Whiteside is 3 of 6 shooting for eight points with three turnovers in the 55 possessions Embiid has guarded him
▪ If there is a Game 6 on Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena the game will tip off at 7 p.m.