HOUSTON — As if facing the 32-12 Rockets wasn’t challenging enough, the Heat will also be shorthanded when they play the team with the NBA’s second-best record.
Guards Goran Dragic (bruised left knee) and Tyler Johnson (sprained left ankle) will miss Monday’s game in Houston. It’s the second consecutive game Dragic has missed and the fourth consecutive game Johnson has missed with their respective injuries.
With Rodney McGruder (left tibia surgery), Okaro White (left foot surgery), Dion Waiters (left ankle surgery) and AJ Hammons (G League assignment) also unavailable, the Heat will have 11 healthy available players against the Rockets.
But this is nothing new for Miami, which has had eight players combine to miss 143 games due to injury or illness this season entering Monday. And this comes after the Heat led the NBA in games missed due to injury or illness last season.
“That just shows what we’re made out of,” said guard Wayne Ellington, who took Dragic’s place in the starting lineup in Saturday’s win over the Hornets. “Those type of games and situations like that show our character. It’s been all season, even last season. So we’re used to it, man. It’s not new for us. So our mentality is, next man up. And that’s what it’s got to be.”
Dragic and Johnson are expected back soon, though. Both players were “able to do a little bit on the court” during Monday’s shootaround.
“I don’t know about close to a return, but they’re definitely making progress,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of Dragic and Johnson. “Both of them were able to do a little bit on the court this morning. They both were active yesterday. All of those signs are great.”
The next chance at a return will come when the Heat host the Kings on Thursday. After completing their five-game trip in Houston, Miami returns home and will have two days to rest before its next game with a practice expected Wednesday.