5 Biggest questions facing the Miami Heat for the playoff push

Plus four more of the biggest storylines to monitor over the Miami Heat's final 27 games.

Miami Heat v New York Knicks
Miami Heat v New York Knicks / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages
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The Miami Heat are feeling good.

With a season-shaking, seven-game losing streak now nearly a month in the rearview, the Heat won six of eight games heading into the All-Star break. Bam Adebayo and Jaime Jaquez Jr. didn’t get much time off. Instead, they participated in the weekend’s festivities, but their teammates did. 

Now they brace for the stretch run. It starts with a tune-up practice Thursday before kicking off a four-game trip in New Orleans against the Pelicans Friday.

There are 27 games left, and the Heat (30-25, sixth in the Eastern Conference) believe their best basketball is ahead of them.

“You want to manage the highs and lows of a season, but they come regardless,” Tyler Herro said after Miami’s final win in Philadelphia before the break. “I think we weathered it well, and there’s no better way to go into a break than how we are right now.”

Of course, vibes only count for so much. There are several lingering questions and storylines worth monitoring over this final stretch. Here are five to follow.

Can everyone get, and then stay, healthy?

Few teams have dealt with injuries to the same degree as the Heat this season. Only the Grizzlies (311) and Trail Blazers (191) have had more games missed due to injury, and neither team is in the playoff picture. The Heat have had 190 games missed due to injury this season, by far the most of any playoff team.

Injuries to Terry Rozier and Josh Richardson will only add to that total coming back from the break. Rozier, with a sprained right knee, could return in the next couple of weeks after he avoided serious injury. 

Richardson’s timetable coming back from a dislocated right shoulder is more uncertain. Players have missed several weeks, even months, with similar injuries. But any timeline right now would be speculation.

The Heat did well in adding Delon Wright off of a buyout during the break. Wright, at 31, is a reliable veteran who can defend, take care of the ball and make open 3s. He provides much-needed depth in the backcourt and may even push for a rotation spot depending on how these next few weeks go.

Jimmy Butler, after missing Miami’s last three games as he attended to a family matter, is expected to return to the lineup Friday in New Orleans. Before the excused absence, Butler had been playing his best two-way basketball of the season.

Over his last seven games, Butler scored at least 20 points in six straight games for the first time all season and closed that stretch with a 17-point, 11-rebound, 11-assist triple-double. The Heat are 12-6 when Butler posts a usage rating of 24% – about the load a star is expected to carry.

Beyond those injury concerns, the Heat don’t have many others. Jaime Jaquez Jr. is starting to round into form after missing six games in January with a groin strain. Bam Adebayo has been nursing a sore hip for most of the season, but the All-Star break should have provided some needed rest.

With less than two months left in the regular season, the challenge becomes avoiding serious injuries. The Heat’s strength has been their depth, but they’ll need their best players available in order to make another deep playoff run.