MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – In the midst of an intense playoff hunt, the Miami Heat will be without one of their key players on Wednesday.READ MORE: Do You Recognize This Man? FBI Releases Photo Of Miami Bank Robbery Suspect
Hassan Whiteside is out for the Heat, but Goran Dragic’s potential return could soften the blow.
With Whiteside suspended following his latest ejection, the Heat will try to complete a season sweep of the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night in a matchup of teams in the muddled Eastern Conference playoff race.
Injuries have plagued Miami (28-35) all season with just guard Mario Chalmers appearing in more than 55 games. Despite that, the Heat are in the thick of the race for eighth in the East, one-half game behind Charlotte.
Now, injuries aren’t the only concern for the Heat, who are without Whiteside for one game after his blindside hit on Celtics center Kelly Olynyk in Monday’s 100-90 loss.
“I feel like I let them down,” said Whiteside, who was ejected for the second time in four games. “It can’t happen again. We’re in a playoff hunt. It was just a terrible decision on my part.”
Whiteside is averaging 10.9 points and a team-high 9.8 rebounds in 35 games, but his seven technical fouls and two ejections also lead Miami.
“It’s another learning opportunity. We are going to correct it with him,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He wants to and he knows that we need him. He needs to be accountable to every other player and staff member in the locker room. He knows how important he is to our play.”READ MORE: Miami Dolphins Legend Nat Moore Visits Miami Palmetto Senior High School; School Receives Football Equipment
That’s a big reason why Dragic’s possible return from a back injury is timely. The guard is averaging 16.1 points and 5.1 assists in eight games since being acquired in a trade from Phoenix last month. He scored 20.0 per contest in his last three games before sitting out two with the injury.
Dwyane Wade scored 34 against the Celtics and is averaging 29.0 points in his last three games. He had 25 in an 88-84 victory over the Nets on Jan. 4 and is shooting 55.3 percent in his last six matchups.
That was Miami’s third win in as many meetings this season after Brooklyn (25-37) won all four in 2013-14.
The Nets didn’t make up any ground in the playoff race Tuesday, falling 111-91 to New Orleans for their fourth straight loss.
“Every game at this point is a big game,” said guard Deron Williams, who scored 10 points and is averaging 9.3 on 25.0 percent shooting (10 for 40) during the four-game skid. “The teams in front of us are not showing any signs of slowing down. We got some ground to gain and got to play better than we are if we want a chance to win.”
Coach Lionel Hollins can’t be pleased with his team’s defense of late. The Nets are giving up an average of 107.3 points in the last four games with their last two opponents connecting on 22 of 43 from 3-point range.
“I think competing is what this business is about, that’s the reason I played, the reason I coach – to compete,” Hollins said, “It’s not about the money, it’s not about the fame, it’s not about anything but just going out there competing and earning respect of your opponent. That’s all that matters.”
Williams isn’t the only Nets starter struggling. Joe Johnson has averaged 7.4 points on 16 of 45 (35.6 percent) from the field in five games this month.MORE NEWS: Connecticut Man Found Guilty Of Sex Trafficking Women During 2020 Super Bowl In Miami
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