NEW YORK – So much for the Miami Heat trying to avoid the sixth seed and a possible playoff showdown with Cleveland.
Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic and James Johnson all will return to the Heat (43-36) lineup tonight against the Knicks (27-51) after each took off Wednesday in Atlanta to rest various ailments. Many believe the Heat would be better trying to fall out of the sixth spot and slip to seventh where they would face Boston, which will be be without All-Star Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart.
But not the Heat.
“We still have something to play for,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s why everybody is playing tonight.”
The Heat secured a playoff spot with their win over Atlanta on Tuesday and since have been playing for seeding. Miami is No. 6, one game ahead of both Washington and Milwaukee and have all tiebreakers against both teams.
Wade (right elbow, left wrist), Dragic (left knee, left ankle) and Johnson (left ankle) had two days to rest and heal with the Heat being off Thursday. Each of their injuries are bothersome but none are serious with each player saying they would have been on the court if the game was meaningful.
Wade was asked if the break helped.
“A little bit,” he said. “Not as much as I wanted to.”
So why is he playing tonight?
“I want to get out there,” he said. “You look around, everyone’s dealing with something this time of the year. If Goran can get out there and play, anybody can get out there and play. Goran goes through a lot. If Goran’s suiting up then I’m suiting up.”
Dragic was asked if the rest helped and if it was necessary.
“I’m good,” said. “It wasn’t necessary. It’s always nice to have a day off, but at the same time if that was a game we needed or was important I would definitely have played.”
Neither player said he is 100 percent, but both said nobody is at this time of the season. As for Wade, the right elbow pain is something that he will live with after fracturing it last March and left wrist bothers him but he can live with it.
“With my elbow, it’s something I had to deal with off and on since it happened,” Wade said. “But I don’t whine about it I just go out there and some nights it’s not feeling the way I need it to feel. But that’s a part of the fracture that I had and that a part of the things the doctor said I might have to deal with over the course, etc. so.”
As for the wrist: “This, I’m not really concerned with. If I fall on it, yeah, it’s going to be sore. ”
Johnson believes he’s as good now as he has been all season.
“I feel good,” he said. “No aches. I was really mentally locked in (at today’s shootaround).
“I’m in great shape. I’ve been lifting everyday. I think its at the best possible place it could be going into these playoffs.”