Tough stretch of games is almost over, favorable part of the schedule is near. Will Heat be healthy enough to take advantage?

Head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat looks on while playing the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on November 28, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland won the game 108-97. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

BOSTON – As the Heat continue to hover around .500, an opportunity to make a run is near.

Miami (15-15) begins a four-game homestand and an eight-game stretch that includes seven home games on Friday. The question is, will the Heat be healthy enough to take advantage of one of the most favorable stretches of their regular-season schedule?

It’s a fair question, considering the shorthanded Heat just lost to the team with the NBA’s worst record on Monday. Miami had just nine healthy players available in its loss to Atlanta.

But before starting a stretch that should help the Heat’s position in the standings, they will close out a brutal 24-game gauntlet that included 17 on the road with a Wednesday matchup against the Celtics in Boston.

The Heat will enter this game as underdogs for two reasons.

For one, the Celtics are 13-3 at home and own the Eastern Conference’s top record at 26-7. Second, the Heat are expected to be shorthanded again.

Let’s run through the Heat’s long injury list: Hassan Whiteside (left knee bone bruise), Goran Dragic (sore left elbow), James Johnson (right ankle bursitis), Justise Winslow (strained left knee), Rodney McGruder (left tibia surgery) and Okaro White (left foot surgery). All six of these players missed Monday’s loss to the Hawks.

And all six are in danger of missing Wednesday’s game against the Celtics. Whiteside, Johnson, McGruder and White didn’t travel with the team on the trip, and coach Erik Spoelstra said after Tuesday’s practice in Boston that there is no update regarding the status of Dragic and Winslow.

Matt Williams Jr. joined the Heat from the Sioux Falls Skyforce on Tuesday as part of his two-way contract to add some depth with all of the injuries.

“They’re feeling better, but I don’t know if they’re feeling better enough to play,” Spoelstra said of Dragic and Winslow.

Dragic said Tuesday the swelling in his left elbow subsided “a little bit,” but made it clear the pain is still there.

“I mean I feel like I can fight through a lot of injuries,” Dragic said when asked if he can play through his elbow issue. “But, this injury is kind of a specific one because there’s so many aspects of the game that you need to do, especially when you’re passing the ball, when you’re shooting. You’re never in that comfort zone. But like I said, we’re going to see [Wednesday].”

Battered and bruised, the Heat won’t admit to looking ahead at all the upcoming home games. But it makes sense for Miami to give its injured players another game — especially one it won’t be expected to win — to heal up before starting a critical two-week stretch it must take advantage of.

This upcoming string of games isn’t just a favorable one because most come at home. A lot of them also come against teams the Heat should beat.

The eight-game stretch includes five against losing teams — at home vs. Mavericks, at home vs. Magic, at home vs. Nets, on road vs. Magic, and at home vs. Jazz. The other three games all come at home — against the .500 Pelicans, the Pistons (which have lost seven of their past 10 games) and the Knicks (which are 2-9 on the road).

The Heat will be favored in most of these games, and they need to win most of them. It’s that simple.

Just think, even with a loss to the Celtics on Wednesday, the Heat could find themselves five games above .500 if they win seven of those eight games.

What awaits Miami on the other side of this favorable stretch? Seven road games in a span of eight contests.

The Heat have survived one of the most challenging parts of their schedule to stay around .500, even with all of the injuries. Now it’s time to take advantage of their schedule and separate themselves from mediocrity.

Miami just has to hope its healthy enough to do so.

[The Heat are asking a lot from Josh Richardson, and he’s been delivering lately]

[Five takeaways from Heat-Hawks: Shorthanded Heat can’t complete comeback, lose to team with NBA’s worst record]

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