Jordan Mickey had a feeling he might make his Heat debut on Saturday night.
But he was a bit surprised when he heard he’d be in the starting lineup.
Mickey, who only started one game in two seasons with the Celtics, answered the call effectively for the Heat in the absence of injured center Hassan Whiteside, who sat out with bone bruise in his left knee.
With Whiteside’s timetable to return uncertain, Mickey’s play during the Heat’s 112-108 victory over the Pacers was encouraging.
"I knew Hassan was down and I had to be expecting probably a little more playing time," Mickey said. "I wasn’t really caught off guard by the start. I just wanted to be prepared and try to help my team the way I could."
Mickey played only 13 minutes and 30 seconds, but finished with the best plus/minus of any Heat player in the game (plus-6).
Mickey scored eight points (one short of his career-high), grabbed six rebounds and gave the Heat a lift during the game’s first seven minutes as well as during a dominant second quarter in which Miami outscored Indiana 37-19.
Mickey has caught the Heat’s attention since training camp for his shot-blocking ability and had one of the most memorable highlights of the preseason on Oct. 11 when he hit a three-pointer with a second left to beat the Wizards.
Mickey’s only other regular season start came this past January 11 with the Celtics.
"It says a lot about [Mickey]," Olynyk said. "He's always ready, always ready. I think he’s had that happen to him before in Boston, so I think Spo and [Celtics coach] Mr. [Brad] Stevens have something in common, I guess. Brad Stevens prepared him for that, because he did it to him in Boston."
Mickey said Spoelstra told him he’d start Saturday after he did his pregame shooting.
"You never know how many minutes you'll play, but when he talked to me, he was like, ‘Just go out there, play hard, play with energy. And give us something.’ And that’s what I wanted, to go out there and just try to give any effort I could to help my team."
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he wanted Mickey in the starting lineup along with James Johnson thus allowing him to bring Kelly Olynyk off the bench and have him play significant minutes with the second unit.
Olynyk delivered 13 points and nine rebounds as a reserve in what Spoelstra said was his best game (including preseason) since joining the Heat.
"I thought Kelly was really comfortable there playing in that second unit," Spoelstra said. "So, Jordan has been doing enough to impress us. They were short minutes just to get the game going. But those are always important minutes."
Mickey, 6-8, said he feels comfortable guarding smaller players on the court as well as taller ones as he did Saturday with Pacers 6-10 center Damontas Sabonis.
"I feel comfortable at whatever position he puts me at, whether he needs me to guard the bigs on the court or guard one of the smaller guys on the court," Mickey said. "That's where the NBA is going now, bigger guys guarding small guys. So you've got to continue to grow with the game."