MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – The Miami Heat have certainly had their fair share of obstacles to overcome so far this season.READ MORE: Miami-Dade Police Department Honors Fallen Law Enforcement Officers
To say the Heat has been presented with a new problem every day since last season ended, that would be an exaggeration. But not by much.
Yet, somehow, the Heat find themselves still in the mix for an Eastern Conference playoff spot, hanging on to the No. 7 position with 23 games left starting with Wednesday night’s home matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers.
For the Heat (26-33), strange has become normal. Players who weren’t in Miami when the season began now find themselves in key roles, arguably the team’s most vital player saw his season end after a major health scare threatened his life, and a roster that needed rebuilding after LeBron James left last summer has needed constantly, almost-daily rejiggering since.
“This year,” guard Dwyane Wade said, “there’s been no normal. Not for us.”
Of Miami’s starting five on opening night, only Wade and Luol Deng remain in the Heat mix. Norris Cole and Shawne Williams were traded and Chris Bosh’s season is over because of blood clots on a lung.
Nearly two dozen starting lineups have been used, four players left in a trade, two players were acquired in that same trade, two players were waived, two players have had seasons end because of injury or illness and finally four others have been signed to either free-agent or 10-day contracts.
“Never seen anything like this,” forward Udonis Haslem said. “I doubt very many people have ever seen anything like this.”READ MORE: Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Warns Company Could Take Ships Out Of Florida Over Vaccine Proof Ban
Miami’s starting center, Hassan Whiteside, got turned down by basically every other NBA team but has essentially become an overnight success with the Heat. The leading scorer in Monday’s 115-98 win over Phoenix, Tyler Johnson, entered the night with 64 points in his NBA career. The team’s two most recent additions, Henry Walker and Michael Beasley, are playing with no guarantees past next week.
Miami’s perpetually changing playbook is still getting tweaked now that the Heat are more up-tempo after landing Goran Dragic from Phoenix on Feb. 19, the same day team officials were learning that Bosh’s season was almost certainly over.
“You wake up and you’re on eggshells,” Wade said. “I think everybody is, because something might happen.”
Dragic’s play has been up and down in six games with Miami, but his success against Los Angeles (16-43) could prove useful. He’s averaged 20.5 points in four contests against the Lakers this season, including a 24-point, nine-rebound effort on Jan. 19.
Los Angeles has lost two in a row after a rare three-game winning streak, falling 104-103 at Charlotte on Tuesday. Jeremy Lin scored a game-high 23 points, and Nick Young missed his third consecutive game with a sore left knee.
“We come out lackadaisical and the other team comes out with more aggressiveness,” coach Byron Scott said. “It takes us three, four or five minutes to get back into it. And we don’t have that room for error.”
Los Angeles’ win at Utah last Wednesday snapped a 12-game road losing streak, but the Lakers have lost their last six in Miami. They fell at home to the Heat 78-75 on Jan. 13.
Ending that skid in South Florida won’t be easy. Los Angeles is an NBA-worst 1-9 on the second of back-to-backs.MORE NEWS: Federal Appeals Court Orders New Trial For Former US Rep. Corrine Brown
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