Injury-riddled Heat take on Pelicans
MIAMI -- If the Miami Heat didn't have enough issues with injuries, another key player will likely miss Saturday night's game against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Starting guard Dion Waiters, the team's third-leading scorer with a 14.7 average, injured his left ankle late in the first quarter of Miami's 113-101 victory over the Dallas Mavericks Friday night. Waiters twisted the ankle, limped off the court and didn't return.
Waiters' expected absence now will result in a third Heat starter sidelined by injury. Center Hassan Whiteside has missed the last 12 games because of a bone bruise on his left knee and a left elbow strain has sidelined point guard Goran Dragic the past three games.
Whiteside has been ruled out for Saturday's game while Dragic is listed as questionable. Injuries also have sidelined key reserves James Johnson for three games and Justise Winslow the past five games. Neither is expected to play against New Orleans.
Wayne Ellington and Josh Richardson picked up the slack after Waiters' injury. Ellington matched a career-high 28 points against Dallas and Richardson finished with 24 points on 11-of-14 shooting.
"Dion is a big piece to our team," Richardson said. "To see a guy like that go down is always tough. I think the other guys did a great job of stepping up."
With the depleted roster, Erik Spoelstra also is expected to count on additional minutes from rookie guard Derrick Walton Jr. and seldom-used forward Jordan Mickey. Walton scored seven points and had five assists in 23 minutes against the Mavericks while Mickey finished with six points in 21 minutes.
"Every night is a challenge in this league," Mickey said. "(Saturday) is just another opportunity to try and get better."
For the Heat, the challenge starts with attempting to neutralize the Pelicans duo of center DeMarcus Cousins and forward Anthony Davis, who both finished with double-figure points and rebounds in New Orleans' 111-97 victory over the Orlando Magic Friday night.
Cousins scored 26 points and had 11 rebounds while Davis scored 20 points and also finished with 11 rebounds.
The Pelicans (16-16) conclude a four-game road trip Saturday and rebounded with the win against the Magic after losses at Denver and Washington.
A reduction in turnovers played a role in the Pelicans' dominant win over the Magic and coach Alvin Gentry looks for his team to continue the trend in the back-to-back closer against Miami. In the road losses against the Nuggets and Wizards, New Orleans had 19 and 16 turnovers. Miami finished with 15 turnovers against Orlando.
"I thought we did a good job with the turnovers number one, which didn't compromise our defense," Gentry said on the Pelicans' Web site. "And then I thought we did a good job of moving the basketball and finding open people and I liked the pace that we played at and I thought our shot selection was very good."
After Saturday's road trip finale, the Pelicans will begin a three-game homestand Wednesday against the Brooklyn Nets.
Updated December 23, 2017