Whiteside returns as Heat shoot past Magic
MIAMI — The Miami Heat got starting center Hassan Whiteside back Tuesday night from a 13-game absence caused by a knee injury.
However, just as Whiteside returned for Miami’s 107-89 win over the Orlando Magic at AmericanAirlines Arena, the Heat nearly lost another player to injury.
Miami guard Tyler Johnson, who scored 17 points and was a game-high plus-32, sprained his left ankle in the third quarter, stepping on the foot of a Magic player.
“I expect the unexpected in this business,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who is already without starting-caliber players such as Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Justise Winslow and Rodney McGruder.
“I had to call timeout. I walked out there, and I said (to Tyler Johnson), ‘Are you OK?’
“He gave me ‘the Heisman’ (brushing him away). He said, ‘I’m fine. I just twisted my ankle. Give me a second.’”
Johnson was determined to finish the game.
“My ankle was a little bit sore, but this was one of those games that you just had to grind out,” Johnson said. “I’ll probably get a little bit (of a sore ankle) tonight, but once my adrenaline started going, I was fine.
“I didn’t want to come out. I didn’t want us to give any excuse for us not finishing out this game.”
In terms of finishing the Magic, Josh Richardson and Wayne Ellington were the ones who nailed the game down for Miami.
Richardson scored a game-high 20 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter. Ellington scored 18 points off the bench, with 12 in the fourth.
Miami’s Kelly Olynyk added a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds as the Heat (18-16) improved to 8-8 at home. Whiteside produced seven points and eight rebounds in 18 minutes.
The Magic (11-24) were led by point guard Elfrid Payton, who had 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Orlando also had its own comeback story as small forward Evan Fournier returned after missing eight games because of an injured right ankle. He scored 14 points in 30 minutes. The Magic’s Mario Hezonja also had 14 points.
The Magic have lost nine games in a row — a skid that started Dec. 8 against the Denver Nuggets. That was the first game missed by Fournier.
“Not bad,” Fournier said when asked how he felt.
There were five lead changes and eight ties in the first three quarters.
Miami led 21-18 after the first quarter, holding Orlando to 25.1 percent shooting, including 0 of 4 on 3-pointers. Miami led by as many as nine points before its own poor shooting caused a struggle.
Between late in the first quarter and midway through the second, Orlando was plus-20 before settling for a 49-43 halftime lead. The Magic shot 52.4 percent in the second quarter.
In the third quarter, Miami put together a 17-2 run — led by 11 Goran Dragic points — as the Heat tied the Magic 68-68 entering the fourth.
Orlando turned the ball over just six times in the first half but 10 times in the third quarter.
“The momentum switched there in just three minutes with all those turnovers,” Fournier said. “Dragic had three layups, I think. It was a momentum-killer for us.”
The Heat then took control in the fourth quarter as Ellington went 4 of 5 on 3-pointers in the period.
“He’s definitely tough,” Magic forward Jonathan Isaac said of Ellington. “He definitely frustrates you — kind of makes you lose your focus.”
NOTES: After an 8-4 start, Orlando has lost 20 of its past 23 games. ... Magic C Nikola Vucevic (broken left hand) had surgery and likely will miss two months. ... Orlando F Aaron Gordon (right calf) missed his fifth straight game, but coach Frank Vogel said Gordon is close to returning. ... Magic F Terrence Ross (right knee) hasn’t played since Nov. 29. ... Heat G Dion Waiters (left ankle) missed his second straight game and said he would consider surgery after the season. He played just 46 games last season, missing the final 13 games with another injury to his left ankle. ... Heat F James Johnson (right ankle) re-aggravated his injury on Saturday. He sat out Tuesday and is day-to-day. ... Heat F Justise Winslow (left knee) hasn’t played since Dec. 13. ... Miami will play host to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday. Orlando will play host to the Detroit Pistons on Thursday.