The Miami Heat, who are set to host the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night, used 15 different starting lineups last season.
This season, with the Heat off to a struggling 6-12 start, Miami has already used 13 different lineups, tied with the Houston Rockets for the most in the league. Miami also has the longest active losing streak in the NBA at five games.
Heat standouts Jimmy Butler (COVID-19 protocols) and Goran Dragic (groin) are among the many Miami players dealing with health issues. Dragic has been ruled out for Saturday, so he will miss his third straight game. Butler, though, has been upgraded to questionable, and it’s possible he could return after missing 10 consecutive games.
Miami’s Avery Bradley and Andre Iguodala are listed as questionable, but Meyers Leonard, Moe Harkless and Chris Silva will not play on Saturday.
“In a perfect world, we’d like to be in a better place than we’re in right now, but we’re not,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We just have to continue to grind.”
Miami, 4-5 at home this season, will try to level that ledger against a Kings team that defeated the Toronto Raptors 126-124 on Friday night in Tampa.
It was Sacramento’s third straight win, and the Kings improved their road record to 3-4.
The Kings are led by a talented trio. Point guard De’Aaron Fox, shooting guard Buddy Hield and forward Harrison Barnes are Sacramento’s top three scorers on the season, and they were against the Raptors, too.
Barnes scored 26 points, Fox had 24 and Hield added 22. The Kings are now one victory away from their longest single-season winning streak since they won five in a row from Oct. 24-Nov. 1, 2018.
“Things are going in the right direction,” Barnes said. “There’s joy in being in these close games and winning, but this is no time to relax.”
Sacramento’s bench was also big on Friday. Former Heat center Hassan Whiteside had 16 points and a team-high nine rebounds, Cory Joseph scored 16 points and rookie point guard Tyrese Haliburton dazzled with 10 points, a game-high 11 assists and six rebounds.
Whiteside is getting healthy just in time to face his former franchise. This was his second game back after missing four in a row due to a hip injury.
Barnes said it was “huge” for Whiteside to contribute 20 minutes off the bench. Whiteside hit 6 of 7 shots from the floor and 4 of 6 free throws while adding one block, one assist and one steal.
“He gives us a different look,” Barnes said. “He puts pressure on defenses.”
The Heat and Kings split two games last season, both of them pre-pandemic, with each team winning on its home court.
One thing to watch Saturday is the health of Heat guard Tyler Herro, who returned Thursday and had 19 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in Miami’s 109-105 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Herro, who had missed seven straight games due to a neck injury, is still not 100 percent.
Regardless of the injuries and the losses, though, Herro said he and his teammates remain resolute.
“We’re good in this locker room,” he said of the team’s spirits. “We will figure it out soon.”
–Field Level Media