PHILADELPHIA — There is zero chance of Heat guard Tyler Johnson missing tonight’s Game 5 against the 76ers.
“He’s ready to go,” coach Erik Spoelstra said at shootaround. “He would probably punch me in the face if I said anything otherwise.”
Johnson has been gutting out an injured thumb on his shooting hand since Philadelphia center Joel Embiid knocked him to the floor on a screen in Game 3. He’s been practicing and playing with tape holding it in place, and it’s definitely hampered him.
He feels it every time he handles the ball, even in something as mundane as dribbling, and it’s made an already tough series even more frustrating for him. Johnson, who spends every bit of energy he has trying to defend 76ers guard J.J. Redick as he runs around screens all night, has averaged six points and shot 7 of 15.
In Game 4, a loss that put the Heat down 3-1 and has them facing elimination tonight at Wells Fargo Center, he went 0 for 1 and had two fouls in just 13 minutes of action.
Those aren’t viable numbers for a starting shooting guard, and they’re a big dropoff from what Johnson did in the regular season while averaging 11.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Spoelstra spoke with him over the last few days about how get rolling again, but that’s going to be a challenge.
“I want to be as involved as I can, but it’s because I know I can help,” he said. “It’s not because I feel like I need X amount of shots. It’s coming from a place of I feel like I can contribute to the team. We were talking about it and trying to figure out ways in which I can be effective, not just for myself but for the team.”
Johnson has been a factor defensively, but not enough to get him on the floor when the game’s on the line. Spoelstra has not played him in the fourth quarter the last three games.