MIAMI – Tyler Johnson just needs to stay away from Bulls center Robin Lopez.
For the second time this season, the Heat guard suffered an ankle injury while being tangled up with Lopez. Johnson rolled his right ankle midway through the second quarter of Miami’s victory Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena when he landed on Lopez. He left the game soon after and did not return.
On Jan. 15 in Chicago, Lopez landed on the back of Johnson’s left leg straining ligaments in his ankle and Achilles. Johnson missed five games.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is hopeful this injury is not as bad as Johnson’s previous run in with Lopez and it appears it isn’t.
The Heat (41-35) are listing Johnson as ‘probable’ for Saturday’s home game against the Nets (24-51).
“It looked similar to the one in Chicago with Lopez but it wasn’t at least as we know right now,” Spoelstra said. “Initially it wasn’t as bad as that one.”
The 6-foot-4 Johnson was injured when he challenged the 7-foot Lopez at the rim after a back-door cut. He took the pass from James Johnson and scored on the layup before his right foot landed on Lopez’s right foot.
A hobbled Johnson came out about four minutes later. He then went to the locker room before the half ended and did not return. Johnson had six points, making half of his six shots.
“He did treatment the entire second half,” Spoelstra said. “We didn’t want to risk anything in the second half. He wanted to play, but (trainer Jay Sabol) said it’s best just to hold him and re-evaluate (Friday).”
Spoelstra said Johnson left the arena “without a limp.”
Rodney McGruder started in place of Johnson in the second half and finished with five points and three rebounds, all coming in the third quarter. McGruder has played 14 games this season, missing the first 60 after having surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left tibia.
McGruder, who started 65 games last season at small forward, likely would start for Johnson if he had to miss any time. He and Josh Richardson would play the wings.
Dwyane Wade, who has found a comfort level coming off the bench, could see an increase in minutes also.
“I’m comfortable with that,” said Wade, who is averaging 22.2 minutes in 16 games with the Heat this season.
Wade said Spoelstra is being “smart” managing his minutes.
“It’s just something in the regular season he just wants to keep my minutes around 23,” Wade said. “But I definitely can play more when need be.”
Wade cited a couple of overtime games in which he was called upon for extra duty and played more than 26 minutes in each.
Johnson has had several nagging issues this season that have forced him to miss 10 games. In addition to the left ankle injury he sat out two games with a left quad contusion and one game each because of a neck spasm, migraine headache and illness.
Johnson skipped Thursday’s shootaround because of a migraine, as did Wade.
“If you play hard those injuries can happen,” Goran Dragic said. “Tyler, he’s a tough player. He’s playing through a lot of contact, too. So sometimes those things are going to happen. You know our philosophy is next man and just try to make the plays. Hopefully it’s nothing serious and he’s going to be ready for the playoffs.”