The absence of point guards John Wall and Goran Dragic have cast long shadows on their teams.
The Washington Wizards (15-23) and Miami Heat (18-18) are still figuring out how to get along without their top playmakers.
Wall, Washington's five-time All-Star, was ruled out for the season on Dec. 29 due to an injury to his left heel. Earlier this season, he moved past Wes Unseld into third place on the franchise's all-time scoring list.
Dragic, an All-Star in 2018, is expected to miss several more weeks due to knee surgery.
On Friday, when the Wizards visit the Heat, both teams will try to continue some recent - although limited - success without their leaders.
Miami has gone 7-2 in its past nine games with converted forward Justise Winslow filling in for Dragic at point guard. In addition, the Heat got shooting guard Dion Waiters back in Wednesday's 117-92 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Playing his first game since Dec. 22, 2017, scored seven points in 11 minutes.
"I was really excited to get back," Waiters said after converting on 3-of-9 shots in his first game back from ankle surgery. "After all the hard work I put in (on his rehab), it was nice to see those shots fall."
With Waiters back, Miami's backcourt suddenly looks to be somewhere between deep and overloaded. Winslow had 10 points and seven assists on Wednesday, and starting shooting guard Josh Richardson had a game-high 24 points while sinking multiple 3-pointers for the 12th consecutive game.
In addition, combo guard Tyler Johnson scored 16 points off the bench.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra also has to find minutes for guards Dwyane Wade and Wayne Ellington. Wade missed Wednesday's game due to an illness, but the 12-time All-Star is third on the team with a 14.1 scoring average. Ellington, a career 38 percent shooter on three-pointers, has been in essence a healthy scratch for four straight games.
With all those guards, the Heat will hope to find at least one of them who can stop Bradley Beal, who leads the Wizards with a 23.6 scoring average. If he remains at this pace, this would be a career high for Beal, an elite 6-5 shooting guard who has averaged more than 22 points in each of the past two seasons.
Beal is clearly Washington's star. But with Wall out, 6-foot-7 Tomas Satoransky has emerged as the starting Wizards point guard. Satoransky, a second-round pick out of the Czech Republic in 2012, is in his third year in the NBA. The 27-year-old is averaging 6.7 points and 3.1 assists.
In a 114-98 win over the visiting Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday, Beal had 24 points while Satoransky had 14 points, a career-high 11 rebounds and seven assists.
Satoransky, who started 41 games last season after Wall had knee surgery, said he is much more comfortable this time around.
"Last season was an uncertain situation for me," he said. "Now, I know my role, and people know me. My teammates have confidence in me."
Washington is not on quite the same type of run as Miami, but the Wizards have won two straight games for the first time since a three-game streak to begin December.
Wizards coach Scott Brooks said his team will have to "scrap" to earn victories without Wall, and Beal agrees.
"We know how much weight (Wall) carries," Beal said. "We know his importance to the team and to this franchise. We hate that he's out, but we're going to do our best to make a run without him."
Updated January 3, 2019