MIAMI — Tyler Johnson didn’t have his best shooting performance of the season in Tuesday’s win over the Magic. But it’s another number that caught coach Erik Spoelstra’s eye.
Miami outscored Orlando by 32 points in the 37 minutes Johnson was on the court, which is the best plus-minus he has recorded in his NBA career. It’s hard to figure that number out, considering the guard finished with 17 points on an inefficient 5-of-16 shooting from the field and 1-of-8 shooting from 3-point range.
“That’s a misprint when somebody is plus-32,” said Spoelstra, turning his attention to Friday’s home game against the Nets. “But you felt him. You just felt his impact.”
Johnson’s normal role is as the sixth man off the Heat’s bench. But injuries to Goran Dragic and now Dion Waiters have pushed Johnson into the starting lineup, and he’s taken advantage of the opportunity.
Johnson, 25, has made five consecutive starts due to injuries. He’s averaging 16.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists in those five starts, and has scored 17 or more points in four of those games.
But Johnson isn’t just contributing offensively. He’s also limiting players he’s defending to 34.5 percent shooting (10.8 percent worse than their combined average shooting percentage) over the past five games.
“I mean he does it on both ends. When Tyler’s at his best version of himself, you just see a bundle of energy and toughness and winning plays,” Spoelstra said. “It doesn’t matter necessarily how many points he scored. Now, he is going through a stage right now somewhere to what J-Rich is going through. His confidence is growing every single game, and you can see it. You can see it before your eyes. You can see it happening.
“And, so, he’s playing poised. So he’s not necessarily forcing the action. I think he’s letting the game come to him. But it’s that nice balance of being aggressive and taking what’s given to you.”
Dragic, the Heat’s starting point guard, is back in the starting lineup after missing three games with a sore left elbow. But Waiters, the starting shooting guard, is out indefinitely with a sprained left ankle.
So, after twisting his own ankle during Tuesday’s win over the Magic, Johnson refused to come out. The shorthanded Heat need him, and he’s delivering.
“I didn’t want to come out,” Johnson said . “That was one of those games where you have to grind it out. … It was a little bit sore, but once my adrenaline started going [I was fine].”