With three key players dealing with injury issues, Heat being ‘smart’ after securing playoff spot

Miami Heat athletic trainer Jay Sabol works with guard Dwyane Wade after Wade hit the floor during overtime against the Brooklyn Nets at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Saturday. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald/TNS)

ATLANTA – The reward for clinching a playoff spot with a week remaining in the season: Ailing players can rest.

The Heat will sit Dwyane Wade (right elbow, left wrist), Goran Dragic (left knee, left ankle) and James Johnson (left ankle) for tonight’s rematch against the Hawks. All three are dealing with injuries but none severe enough that it would prevent them from playing if this were, say, the playoffs.

“Each one of these injuries, whenever they happen and the next day is go time,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “These guys, they understood what was at stake. So, everybody was just green-lighting and going forward, regardless of how they felt.

“Right now, we think it’s smart just to take a day, get treatment and reevaluate.”

The Heat (42-36) secured a playoff spot with a 101-98 home victory over the Hawks on Tuesday. Miami remains in a three-way tie with Washington and Milwaukee for the 6-8 spots but are seeded sixth entering tonight because of tiebreakers.

All three players said they expect to play Friday in New York.

“Right now, we’re not shutting everybody down,” Spoelstra said. “That’s not the thought of this at all. It’s we want to clear these things up and it might be cleared up so all of them can go on Friday. But we’ll see how the next two days go.”

The injuries forced Spoelstra to roll out his 24th different starting lineup: Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Rodney McGruder, Luke Babbitt and Hassan Whiteside.

Wade’s injuries occurred during Saturday’s overtime loss to Brooklyn. He landed hard on his wrist late in the overtime and banged the elbow earlier in the game. Wade fractured the same elbow last March while playing for Chicago.

“(Tuesday) was just a game we needed to win,” Wade said. “I think everybody trying to just play through whatever your feeling and got a chance to get that clinched. Tonight, having a quick turnaround, get an opportunity to rest it.”

Dragic said he’s been dealing with tendinitis in the knee, which flared up about three weeks ago. He twisted his ankle on Tuesday.

When asked if he would be playing if this was a meaningful game, Dragic said: “Definitely.”

Johnson said his ankle has been an issue for awhile.

“Just been playing through it,” he said. “If you can you must, that mentality. Just been playing through it and today it hurts. I got treatment on it and I’ll get ready for New York.”

Johnson missed six games earlier this season with bursitis in his right ankle.

For the Heat, the goal is getting healthy for the playoffs, which start April 14, 15.

“In the playoffs, every player we want them to be healthy so we can compete at the highest level,” Dragic said. “I think it’s important.”

Still, the Heat are not dismissing their chances to finish sixth, even if their first-round opponent is Cleveland.

“We want to make noise in the playoffs,” Johnson said. “We’re definitely not satisfied with where we’re at.”

[Playoff experience? Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem have a lot of it. Rest of Heat? Not so much]

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