MIAMI – The Heat’s backcourt will receive a boost tonight with the return of Tyler Johnson, who will play against the Hornets.
Johnson missed the last five games with a sprained left ankle. Bulls center Robin Lopez landed on the back of Johnson’s left foot when the two went down on a play along the baseline on Jan. 15.
Spoelstra said Johnson had a “great” workout Friday and followed that with shootaround today as the Heat prepared for tonight’s game against Charlotte.
Johnson, who was carted off the court after Lopez landed on his foot, was very concerned initially, saying the next day “it felt like my knee popped.” And while the Heat has listed the injury as a sprained ankle, Johnson said the swelling was in his ankle and Achilles.
After the initial diagnoses, doctors did not feel the need for an MRI.
The Heat were 2-3 in Johnson’s absence with Derrick Jones Jr., who is on a two-way contract, starting all five games.
“Certainly, you miss one of your better scorers and better energy, competitors out there,” Spoelstra said. “So, it will be great to have him back.
“That’s not the reason we lost the other night but we would love to have him in there in the fourth quarter. He has a way of making plays down the stretch on both ends of the court.”
The Heat were outscored 17-4 the final six minutes of an 89-88 home loss to Sacramento on Thursday.
Johnson was thrust into the starting lineup when the Heat lost guard Dion Waiters, who is out for the season after undergoing ankle surgery. Point guard Goran Dragic was asked what the team misses without Johnson in the lineup.
“His aggressiveness, especially when we’re in offense he can give us different looks, he can put the ball on the floor,” Dragic said. “Basically, he can create from nothing a good shot for us. And his ability to defend. He’s always close to the ball. He always gets that big rebound. It’s going to be huge if he’s playing.”
Johnson is averaging 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists while shooting 42.8 percent from the floor. In 12 games as a starter, his averages are 15.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists while shooting 46 percent.
“That puts us back full force,” guard Wayne Ellington said. “We got our attackers back and we need that to be the type of team that we want to be with everybody on board. We’re excited Tyler is coming back and we can put everybody out there.”