The Miami Heat, riding a season-high-tying, five-game losing streak, are set to visit the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.
Miami lost 125-122 to the visiting Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night, which means the Heat will be heading on the road for the second half of a back-to-back set.
In addition, the Heat had just nine players available on Thursday, and it was unclear how many would be ready to take on the Hornets.
Miami was without Jimmy Butler, sidelined because of a stomach ailment, and the Heat fell to 4-11 when he does not play. The Heat were also without Goran Dragic for a third straight game due to back spasms. That’s Miami’s top overall player (Butler) and the leader of their second unit (Dragic).
The Heat hope two players they acquired on Thursday — Victor Oladipo and Nemanja Bjelica — are available on Friday.
In the meantime, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra is grateful Tyler Herro had 29 points on Thursday, hoping this could be a revival for the explosive guard.
“Tyler was making the right reads and getting people involved,” Spoelstra said. “He found ways to be assertive and put the ball in the basket.”
The issue with Herro, however, is that he hasn’t had consecutive 20-point-or-better games since Jan. 9-12.
Although the Oladipo trade wasn’t official immediately following Thursday’s game, Spoelstra was able to address the Bjelica acquisition.
“He’s a big shooter,” Spoelstra said of the 6-foot-10, 235-pounder. “(Butler) played with him in Minnesota. (Dragic) is familiar with him. (Bjelica) gives us spacing and size.”
The Hornets also added a player before the trade deadline, acquiring Brad Wanamaker from the Golden State Warriors. Charlotte, which has won two straight games, has been resting since a 122-97 road win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.
Devonte’ Graham, playing in place of injured Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball, had 21 points in that game, hitting 6 of 9 from 3-point range.
“We all know it’s in there — this is the Devonte’ we know,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “This is a guy we believe in and trust.”
Excluding Ball (out due to a wrist injury), Graham is third on the Hornets in scoring (13.3 points per game) and first in assists (5.1 per game).
Terry Rozier (20.3 ppg) and Gordon Hayward (20.1) are Charlotte’s top two scorers. Cody Zeller (7.1) and P.J. Washington (6.6) are the top two rebounders on the Hornets. Zeller played against Houston on Wednesday after missing the two previous games due to a shoulder injury.
Malik Monk, who is averaging 12.5 points, leads Charlotte’s second unit. He scored 19 points against the Rockets, and he takes his role seriously.
“If things aren’t going well with the second unit, it’s all on me,” Monk said. “With LaMelo injured, I take pride in bringing a lot of energy off the bench.”
Miami is 10-11 on the road this season.
Charlotte, 12-8 at home, beat the Heat 129-121 in overtime on Feb. 1 in what is so far the only meeting between the teams this season.
Monk went wild in that game, scoring a career-high 36 points while making 9-of-13 on 3-pointers. Graham had 24 points in that contest, making up for the loss of Rozier, who had an injured right ankle at the time.
For Miami, Butler scored 25 points and Bam Adebayo added 23 points, but they had no answers for Monk.
“I was locked in,” Monk said. “I was ready.”
–Field Level Media