PORTLAND, Ore. – Just When Erik Spoelstra was starting to believe the Miami Heat were getting healthy, another one goes down.
Forward Luke Babbitt gingerly walked to the locker room during the first quarter of the Heat’s dramatic 111-110 victory in Utah Thursday – one the Jazz believe was taken from them – and never returned. He was diagnosed with a right hip-flexor strain, an injury that Spoelstra characterized as similar to the one that will keep guard Dion Waiters out of the lineup for at least two weeks. Waiters has torn groin muscle.
“Probably a little bit similar to Dion,” Spoelstra said following the game. “We’ll find out more. But it’s a hip-flexor strain. It’s not a contusion. So we’ll evaluate him.”
The Heat (7-12) started this three-game trip by leaving Waiters and forward Justise Winslow (wrist) behind to continue treatment. Then they learned Waiters’ injury was a little worse than they thought and he would be re-evaluated in two days. Josh Richardson was send home on Thursday after sitting out Wednesday’s victory in Denver when his sprained right ankle did not improve. Additionally, forward Derrick Williams was not available Thursday because of back spasms.
“We’re falling down like dominoes,” guard Goran Dragic said.
After Babbitt went down, the Heat had four players on the bench the entire game. Eight played at least 12 minutes and seven logged at least 24.
“It kind of simplifies things, nine strong,” Spoelstra said. “It was go as hard as you can and come out. And that’s what you want, that habit all year long. But when you have a deeper rotation, inevitably guys want to play their normal rotation minutes. Literally tonight guys were playing as hard as they could, raising their hand, and we had to shuffle and get guys in and out. And that’s the most we’ve ever had to do it because of fatigue, regardless of lineup. We were playing a lot of different lineups, it didn’t matter.”
With just two days remaining before they return to South Florida – the Heat go for a 3-0 trip Saturday against the Trailblazers – Babbitt was not send home. His wife, who is expecting a child, is in Portland.
“We’ll give him a chance to go home,” Spoelstra said.
Spoelstra said Williams’ back spasms started Wednesday and got worse. Williams said winning the first two games of the trip is great medicine.
“Every game it seems like one more person is going down,” he said. “We have one more game, we’re looking forward to getting that one as well. We have one on Saturday. I’ll be good by then.”