The Heat’s Joe Johnson and Hassan Whiteside on Friday each took a little blame for how the Hornets’ Courtney Lee was able to swoop in and grab a big offensive rebound late in Game 5 moments before hitting the game-winning three-point shot with nobody really guarding him.
“I got switched onto Kemba [Walker], and I jumped with Kemba when he took the jump shot,” Whiteside said. “Then, I could see Kemba out of the corner of my eye, so that’s why I kind of stayed looking at Kemba [and didn’t move]. Then, me and Josh [Richardson] got switched up [after Lee grabbed the rebound]. I didn’t realize Josh was behind me.”
Most fans naturally blamed Dwyane Wade for not boxing out Lee since Wade was guarding Lee on the play. But when Whiteside jumped out to contest Walker’s shot, Wade moved inside to help Richardson, who had the Walker assignment prior to the pick-and-roll and was trying to box out 7-foot center Cody Zeller.
Once the ball caromed off the rim, Johnson, who was free and could have stepped up to grab the rebound, reacted too slowly and Lee instead swooped in to grab the rebound. Johnson said he was in the right spot on the floor but was upset he didn’t get to the ball quick enough.
“I [saw Lee] late,” said Johnson, whose defensive assignment was Jeremy Lin. “It happens. It’s a tough spot. Give Courtney Lee credit. He came up with a big rebound.”
▪ Johnson, who signed with the Heat in late February and was expected to be much more impactful in the playoff push, went into Game 6 on Friday hoping to be more aggressive on the offensive end.
Through the series’ first five games, Johnson, 35, was averaging 11 points and had the fourth-most field-goal attempts (44) on the team. That was half as many shots as Wade had put up. Most expected Johnson to be the team’s No. 2 scoring option behind Wade in the playoffs.
“Anybody that wants to get more aggressive, I’m with them,” Wade said. “Joe is a great playmaker. He’s a guy who can get into the teeth of the defense with his height, strength. I’m with Joe being more aggressive. But that’s a question he needs to answer.”
Johnson said shortly after he signed with the Heat that he wanted to be a part of the team’s future. Friday, though, he sounded a little less committed.
“We’ll see what happens in the summer. I can’t predict that,” Johnson said.
▪ Coach Erik Spoelstra said combo guard Tyler Johnson would no longer be available only in an emergency role. Johnson was active Wednesday for the first time since undergoing left shoulder surgery but didn’t play.
“He really got cleared three weeks ago by the doctors,” Spoelstra said. “But [team trainer] Jay [Sabol] really felt he needed two to three more weeks of strength training to build all the muscles up.”