MIAMI — It can be difficult to find encouraging statistics for the Heat. After all, Miami is 9-17 this season.
While still disappointing, there are some numbers that provide hope. And there’s one in particular the Heat are hanging on to.
Due to a list of injuries, the Heat’s core five of Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow and Hassan Whiteside had played together in one game for a total of two minutes over the first 25 games of the season.
“Obviously you would love to see that group together,” coach Erik Spoelstra said last week. “We’ve all been around long enough in this business to know it doesn’t always work out as planned. But, the train keeps on going and you have an opportunity to continue to build and grow and get better as a team and I think we have.”
That core five combined to miss 32 games due to injuries over the first 25 games. In total, 12 Heat players (including Chris Bosh) have combined to miss 105 games due to injuries this season.
But as the Heat return to health, there’s hope that core five can help salvage Miami’s season. Winslow returned Wednesday against the Pacers after missing 16 games with a sprained left wrist.
“We see better days coming. We’re building a foundation,” Spoelstra said. “We feel guys are on their way to getting back healthy. And we like a lot of the things that are going on. For a team with this kind of record, it has an incredible cause and spirit and fight from within guys and that’s because they see the optimism of what we have.”
Those “better days” could be here. For the first time since Nov. 10 against the Bulls, the entire core five of Dragic, Johnson, Richardson, Winslow and Whiteside was available and healthy in Wednesday’s win over the Pacers.
“I feel like we have a couple 10-game stretches where we can go 7-3, 8-2,” Richardson said. “I feel like we have a couple good runs in us. I think once everybody gets back we can give it a little push.”
Could the Heat be in the middle of that push?
After starting with a 7-17 record, Miami has won the first two games of its season-long six-game homestand. And the Heat are as healthy as they’ve been all season with a season-high 13 players available for Wednesday’s game against the Pacers.
More importantly, the lineup of Dragic, Johnson, Richardson, Winslow and Whiteside was able to get on the court together Wednesday. It wasn’t for long, but the group logged three minutes of court time together and outscored the Pacers 6-3 during that stretch.
Good thing for the Heat, those five are now available and healthy to play more minutes together moving forward.
“I feel like we still have another level we can go to,” Richardson said. “That’s the biggest thing, just being patient.”