The Miami Heat went into Sunday as short-handed as it has been at any point this season. Goran Dragic, the Heat’s lone All-Star a year ago, missed his seventh game in a row with a knee injury. Tyler Johnson and Derrick Jones Jr. both sat out because of hamstring injuries. Miami already had to make do on the perimeter with some makeshift lineups.
Then the Heat’s roster suffered another setback. Rodney McGruder, one of Miami’s breakout contributors this season, went down with a sprained right ankle in the first quarter. The already-undermanned Heat had to make do with only nine healthy players and somehow did. Miami rallied from a 19-point deficit in the first quarter to pull out a 102-100 win against the Utah Jazz at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“In many regards, from a standpoint of grit and not making excuses or feeling sorry for ourselves,” coach Erik Spoelstra said in his postgame news conference, “this was our signature game this year.”
The Heat (9-13) only used nine players Sunday and McGruder only played five minutes. Six Miami players logged at least 29 minutes. Combo guard Josh Richardson played a team-high 39. Guard Dwyane Wade contributed 30 minutes, his second highest total of the season. The Heat needed maximum effort from those available to take down the Jazz (12-12) in Miami.
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The good news for the Heat is Dragic could be nearing a return. The guard had his right knee drained before Miami’s most recent road trip and returned to the court Tuesday for shootaround, then again for practice Thursday. Although the Heat listed him as out rather than questionable or even doubtful, Dragic is at least making some progress.
Johnson, on the other hand, has yet to practice since injuring his right hamstring. The guard missed his sixth game in a row Sunday, and the team expects him to be out of commission until at least the middle of the week. There’s still no specific timetable for Jones or swingman Dion Waiters, who has yet to play this season as he recovers from ankle surgery.
But right as some measure of health could be returning the backcourt, Miami lost another major contributor when McGruder stepped on the foot of Utah point guard Ricky Rubio on a cut. McGruder was quickly ruled out and wore a boot in the locker room after the game. McGruder had an X-ray, which he said came back negative, so for now he’s listing himself as day to day.
“We have a great training staff, so you don’t ever know,” McGruder said when asked whether he’d rush back for Tuesday against the Orlando Magic, “but it’s just day to day, I would say.”