Mailbag: Were injuries to blame for Heat’s first-round playoff exit?

Miami Heat’s Goran Dragic, left, Wayne Ellington, second from left, James Johnson, second from right, and Kelly Olynyk, right, reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Saturday, March 10, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

MIAMI — It’s time for another Heat mailbag.

If you weren’t able to ask a question this time, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44). You can also email me at achiang@pbpost.com.

Scott, Boca Raton: Now we find out James Johnson was hurt. With Goran, Tyler, Josh and now James all dealing with injuries in the playoffs, is it fair to say the Heat were just too hurt to beat the Sixers?

Anthony Chiang: I mean … it’s probably not fair. Yes, Goran Dragic was battling a knee issue. Yes, Tyler Johnson played through a thumb injury that required offseason surgery. Yes, Josh Richardson was dealing with a sprained shoulder. Yes, James Johnson recently underwent surgery for a sports hernia that bothered him for part of the regular season and in the playoffs. And yes, Dion Waiters never even got a chance to play in the playoffs because of season-ending ankle surgery. But to blame the Heat’s first-round playoff exit on these injuries is unfair. Goran was healthy enough to average 31.3 minutes of playing time in the series. Tyler suffered his injury in Game 3 and Josh suffered his injury in Game 4, so both were healthy to start the playoffs. And we don’t know how much James’ injury impacted him, but he was still available to play big minutes for the Heat against the Sixers. Instead of pointing to injuries as the reason for the Heat’s short playoff appearance, look at Hassan Whiteside’s ineffectiveness, the team’s poor rebounding and free-throw shooting, and struggles in the second half. Plus, the Sixers were without All-Star center Joel Embiid in the first two games of the series, before he returned and played the final three games against Miami with a mask to protect an orbital bone fracture. And Sixers forward Robert Covington recently underwent offseason surgery for a finger injury suffered in late December. That matters, too.

@AutomatedDroneS: Hey. I know we have logjams all over the roster. I like Waiters, and Olynyk impressed this season. But, with the conference finals featuring many switchable, lengthy lineups, it’s hard to imagine much success in the future playing a small backcourt/frontcourt that can’t switch.

Anthony Chiang: I see your point. The best teams in today’s NBA are ones that feature versatile players who can guard multiple positions and can switch on to pretty much anybody on the floor. The Warriors and Rockets can do this well, and so can the Celtics. The Heat have a few players who fit this style — Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, James Johnson, Bam Adebayo. But Miami probably doesn’t have enough guys who can play that “switch everything” defense. I’m sure the Heat will look to add a few more of these players in the offseason.

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