Just as the Miami Heat were getting fully healthy, Jimmy Butler landed on the injury report. Butler will miss his second straight game with a left calf strain Friday night against the Hawks, but coach Erik Spoelstra says he’s “not as concerned” about key players missing games.
“We have great depth,” Spoelstra said after Wednesday’s win in Orlando. “So I’m not as concerned when we’ve had to deal with guys missing games.”
Through 28 games, the Heat have had players miss 89 games because of injury, fifth-most in the league. All of the injuries have forced the Heat to use a league-leading 16 different starting lineups.
Making matters more difficult is that Miami’s lead players, Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro, have played just seven games together this season.
This has forced various other players to step up. When Adebayo missed seven straight games with a left hip contusion, Orlando Robinson went from out of the rotation to in the starting lineup. With Herro sidelined for 18 straight games, Duncan Robinson emerged as a dynamic option at shooting guard. When Butler was ruled out for Wednesday’s game in Orlando, rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. stepped in as a starter.
“I feel very good about our depth, I feel very good that different players are able to step up and contribute to winning on different nights,” Spoelstra said. “You need that in this league.”
The Heat (16-12) are 11-7 in games without Herro, 5-5 without Adebayo and 2-3 without Butler. Despite the injuries piling up, Miami is sixth in the East as of Friday morning.
Herro and Adebayo returned from extended absences last week and the Heat pushed the West’s first-place Timberwolves and earned a convincing road win over the East’s fourth-place Magic. But just as the Heat were getting two starters back, they lost Butler to a left calf strain he sustained in Monday’s loss to the Timberwolves. Kevin Love also missed Wednesday’s game in Orlando but is expected back Friday against the Hawks.
Butler is considered day-to-day and the hope is that he will return to the lineup in time for Miami’s marquee game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Christmas Day. The 76ers (19-8) lead the league in net rating and have the current MVP favorite in Joel Embiid. If the Heat are healthy for that matchup, it will be just in time.