Miami Heat welcome back a more explosive Tyler Johnson in win over Bucks

MIAMI – Tyler Johnson’s game changed as he slowly recovered from an ankle injury suffered a month ago in Chicago.

Johnson didn’t have the explosiveness he’s accustomed to, or the lift. The Heat’s energetic guard settled. And his offense suffered.

“I’ve been standing out on the perimeter to try to shoot my way out of it,” Johnson said. “A lot of it I think had to do with my ankle being a little bit sore, maybe not trusting it all the way. I’ve been putting in a lot of work to try and get that pain out and get that explosion back. I just felt like I could not get off the ground as much as I would have liked to.”

Johnson decided he would get to rim more often on Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks. It worked. Johnson had a team-high 19 points in Miami’s 91-85 victory that will be remembered as the ‘Dwyane Wade Returns Game,’ the most points he’s scored since his season-high 31 Dec. 30 in Orlando.

The Miami Heat’s Tyler Johnson goes to the basket against the Milwaukee Bucks’ Thon Maker during the Heat’s victory Friday in Miami.(David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald/TNS)

And better yet, half of his 16 shots were within 12 feet, a nice mixture of getting into the paint while continue to shoot the open jumpers.

“It opens up everything and allows me to get people involved, too, kind of like how Dion (Waiters) would,” Johnson said about how the game changes when he’s not settling for outside shots.

“Dion was constantly attacking and putting pressure on the basket. He kind of opened things up for a lot of people. I kind of took it upon myself (Friday) to try to be a little bit more aggressive to try and get myself going (and) to try and open things up.”

Johnson was averaging 7.7 points and shooting just .322 in the seven games since returning from the injury. And nearly 60 percent of his shots were 3-pointers. For the year, his breakdown is 52.2 percent of his shots being twos and 47.8 percent threes.

Last season, easily his best in his four years, 69.7 percent of his shots were twos.

“We can have him in a better place and part of that is my job, part of that is the team trying to get him to his strengths and part of that is Tyler taking more responsibility to find the right times to be aggressive and to read the game,” coach Erik Spoelstra said prior to Miami’s loss to Houston on Wednesday.

“Usually with Tyler competition is what takes him to a different level. When he’s really competing and he’s around the ball defensively things tend to change for him in a positive way on the offensive end. I’d like to see him flying around making a bunch of winning defensive plays and see what happens from there.”

Johnson checked that box, too, as did most of his teammates who held the Bucks to 37.8 percent shooting in the second half. Johnson’s plus-minus was a game-best plus-19.

As for the ankle, which occurred Jan. 15 when Chicago’s Robin Lopez landed on the back of his left foot and forced Johnson to miss five games, Johnson said “it’s getting closer” to 100 percent. The injury was as much to his Achilles as his ankle.

“It’s something you’re going to have to deal with, especially the way the injury occurred and what happened to it,” Johnson said. “It’s not a typical ankle strain. It’s different movement that kind of irritates it. I’m starting to trust it and maybe a little bit more comfortable with it.”

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