Winslow due to return for injury-riddled Heat vs. Hawks
ATLANTA — Miami will likely have forward Justise Winslow back for Monday night’s game in Atlanta against the Hawks, but now James Johnson has joined the Heat’s lengthy injury list.
Johnson, Miami’s starting power forward, injured his lower right leg in the first quarter of the Heat’s 90-85 home victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.
Johnson, averaging 10.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, had an MRI on Sunday and didn’t travel with the team for a road trip that will conclude with a game in Boston against the Celtics on Wednesday.
Also not on the trip is center Haason Whiteside, who remained in Miami to continue rehab on his left knee. He has missed the past nine games with a bone bruise and 14 games overall.
Whiteside, averaging 14.9 points and 12.7 rebounds per game, missed five games after first hurting the knee in the Heat’s season opener at Orlando and then injured it again on Nov. 22 against the Celtics.
Injuries cost the Heat 328 games in 2016-2017 — the most in the NBA — and the team has been plagued again this season.
Winslow has missed the past two games with a knee injury and will be needed to step up if Johnson is out for any length of time. He is averaging 6.6 points and 5.4 rebounds, second best on the team.
The Heat (15-14) is also without Rodney McGruder (leg surgery) and Okaro White (foot surgery).
“We’ve had a lot of guys out,” said rookie center Bam Abebayo, who is getting plenty of minutes off the bench with Whiteside out.
Miami, though, has won four of its past five games and can go two games over .500 for the first time this season with a victory against the Hawks (6-23).
The Heat won 104-93 over the Hawks on Oct. 23 without Whiteside. Josh Richardson had 21 points, Wayne Ellington 20 and Goran Dragic 19 in the win, with Ellington hitting six 3-pointers in a red-hot second quarter before the Heat cooled off.
Richardson scored a career-best 28 points in the victory over the Clippers as Miami ground out a badly needed home victory.
The third-year guard from the University of Tennessee has had a breakout December, averaging 16.3 points in eight games while making 21 of 36 3-point shots.
“Every year there has been a guy who stepped up huge for us,” said Richardson, who went into the month averaging 8.8 points.
The Hawks, who have the worst record in the NBA, have been off since a 96-94 loss to the Grizzlies in Memphis on Friday.
“Tough loss,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said afterwards. “I felt like we played well enough for more of the game, for 48 minutes, but we weren’t able to come away with the win. We needed to make a few more plays down the stretch.”
Kent Bazemore scored 19 points, while Dennis Schroder had 18 points and 11 assists as the Hawks lost their fourth straight. Schroder missed the first game against the Heat with a sprained ankle.