Heat center Hassan Whiteside has a new nickname for teammate Goran Dragic.
“I call him Drago,” Whiteside said, referring to Ivan Drago, the Russian boxer from the film Rocky IV. “I said ‘Rocky got you tonight.’”
Playing the part of Rocky was Raptors guard Cory Joseph, whose elbow crashed into Dragic’s right eye 41 seconds into the third quarter. Dragic left Miami’s 104-89 victory over Toronto and did not return, diagnosed with an orbital contusion. His availability for tonight’s crucial game at Indiana will not be known until later.
Following the game, Dragic, who had 15 points in just 17 minutes, said the eye, which was swollen nearly shut, was “painful.” He said he intended to play tonight, but “we’ll see.”
Coach Erik Spoelstra said the Heat would be “smart about it,” when asked about Dragic playing.
The injury happened on a Raptors break.
“I sprinted back (on) defense and Cory Joseph tried to do a Eurostep, but he threw the elbows up and he hit me in the eye,” said the point guard from Slovenia. “Nothing special.”
The Heat were leading by 18 when Dragic went out and stretched the lead to 20 before a late Raptors rally reduced the final margin to 15.
“He’s a big part of what we’re doing,” said Tyler Johnson, who along with Dion Waiters, James Johnson and Josh Richardson were called upon to handle the ball more in Dragic’s absence. Waiters helped pick up the scoring load with a team-high 20 points.
“Credit to them. They’re not a team that’s going to give up. They’re in the position they’re in in the playoffs for a reason. Obviously they’re missing a key piece. But guys know their roles on their team and they’re going to play hard regardless.”
The Raptors were playing their eighth consecutive game without All-Star Kyle Lowry since he broke his right wrist.
Tyler Johnson had his own scare. Late in the game he fell hard on his left elbow. He remained in the game but was cradling his arm for the final few minutes.
“Luckily I didn’t land directly on my elbow I landed a little bit down,” he said. “It stings but it’s nothing that’s going to deprive me of playing.”
Johnson, who finished with 15 points, had a light wrap on the arm following the game. He said it hurt until, “the ball hit my hands and I had to go up for a layup. I was 100 percent again.”