When James Johnson checked in for the Miami Heat with 4:14 left in the first quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, it checked off a major milestone for the Heat’s power forward.
Seven months after undergoing sports hernia surgery, Johnson was finally ready to get back on the court.
“I was feeling better,” Johnson said. “I was feeling healthier.”
Johnson’s reward on Sunday (if you can call it that): Sharing the responsibility of guarding the Lakers’ LeBron James on arguably his hottest night of the season. James put up a season-high 51 points in Los Angeles’ 113-97 win over Miami.
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“I don’t think anybody would want it any other way,” Johnson said. You get to play against arguably the best player on this planet right now. It really shows you where you are. It puts things in perspective. I can only go up from here.”
Johnson’s minutes were staggered throughout the night. Part of the reason was due to coach Erik Spoelstra wanting to ease Johnson back in after so much time off.
But early foul trouble played a factor, as well. Johnson racked up two fouls in his first three minutes on the court and had four personal fouls by halftime.
Johnson’s final stat line for the night: eight points on 2-of-8 shooting, two assists and five personal fouls in 15:15.
“[I] just tried to play as hard as I could for those minutes that I was out there,” Johnson said. “I got overzealous with some quick fouls.”
Spoelstra added: “He needs game minutes to get into a rhythm. I wasn’t expecting him to come in and play at a great flow. Your timing from practice to games is different, but he needed those minutes. Every single one of those minutes he needed and we’ll just continue to work on that.”
The Heat has a lot to work on in general. The loss to the Lakers marked Miami’s eighth loss in its past 11 games. The Heat hosts the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday before playing a pair of games on the road against the Chicago Bulls on Friday and the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.
“It starts with practice,” Johnson said. “We’re going to get some chances to finally get some good practices in this week and we’re going to go from there. We know what our mistakes are. We know the solutions for them. We’ve just got to fix them.”