Coming off of an impressive 114-106 victory against the Indiana Pacers on the road, the Miami Heat extended their win streak to six games and improved their record to 24-17. This record is good enough for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, which is extremely impressive for a team who was at the bottom of their conference at this point in the season last year, with an abysmal 11-30 record.
Unfortunately, very sad news for Heat fans came out yesterday, when it was reported that guard Dion Waiters would be forced to miss the remainder of the 2018 season due to surgery on his troublesome left ankle. Waiters had been contemplating surgery at the end of this season so that he could play the rest of this year, but ultimately this was the best decision, as he will be fully healthy by the start of next season. Prior to the injury, Waiters had been averaging 14.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game.
However, with the loss of the team’s closer, how will the Heat be able to perform without him? Although Waiters brings toughness and shot creating to the team, Miami should continue to excel this season, even without him. The team has been winning games without him, largely due to the excellent performances of Wayne Ellington and Tyler Johnson, and if these players continue to play consistently, they should be able to make up for the loss of Waiters.
Furthermore, the Heat recently signed forward Derrick Jones Jr., and in the last few games, he has started in place of Waiters. Jones Jr. gives the Heat an explosive, young athlete who can guard multiple positions, and he should also soften the blow of Waiters’ season ending injury.
One of the positives of this year’s Heat team is their incredible depth, and it will be a collective effort to replace the offense brought by Dion. Additionally, Justise Winslow could be returning as soon as Sunday, and this adds another body to throw into the rotation.
Although one may think that the loss of Waiters will really impact Miami’s success in the end of close games, as Dion was statistically one of the most clutch players in the NBA, the Heat have shown that they can close out tight games without him. During their win streak, they have not won a single game by double digits, and the team has learned how to close out games strongly.
Goran Dragic has really stepped up his play lately, and Hassan Whiteside is finally starting to look like his old self as he continues to return to full strength after his knee injury. Moreover, young stars Josh Richardson and Bam Adebayo have also begun to excel. The once mediocre team that seemed to be locked at a record around .500 looks like they may be able to make a run in the playoffs this year if they continue their stellar play.
The Heat have a tough test on the road in Milwaukee on Sunday, but if the team continues to play with grit and toughness, they should be able to walk away with another win.
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