The Miami Heat saw how tough things could be without Luol Deng in the lineup, so they are hoping his thigh injury will not be one that lingers for too long.
The Miami Heat‘s chances at a playoff spot have greatly improved in recent weeks despite a number of injuries looking like it could derail their season. The biggest blow was Chris Bosh having another blood clot problem, as he has not been with the team since the All-Star Break. Despite not having arguably their best player, the Heat have managed to go 12-5 since the break.
A big reason for that has been the play of Luol Deng. Deng had been a complementary role player during his time with the Heat, blending in more than taking a leading role. But, with Bosh sidelined, Deng was inserted as the starting power forward and asked to carry more of the load offensively. He has responded well, putting together strong performances consistently for the Heat.
Prior to the All-Star Break, Deng had scored in double figures only 23 times; he rattled off 15 straight double-figure scoring games out of the All-Star Break to help replace the production that was missing with Bosh sidelined. However, he only scored eight points combined over the last two games as he battled a bruised thigh.
Deng originally injured himself against the Charlotte Hornets when he collided with Marvin Williams on Mar. 17. He was able to play in the next two games, against the Cleveland Cavaliers and New Orleans Pelicans — both Heat wins — but was ineffective. The thigh injury was bothering him, and he sat out against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.
While the AT&T Center is not an easy place to play, as the Spurs are undefeated there this season, not having Deng clearly was a problem for the Heat. The seldom used Josh McRoberts was inserted into the lineup for Deng and had nowhere near the same impact. The importance of Deng was on full display, as the Heat just didn’t look the same without the veteran in the lineup.
Luckily for the Heat, it sounds like an injury that will not keep Deng out long. When talking to Jason Lieser of The Palm Beach Post, Deng said, “It’s not something that’s gonna be long. We just want to give it two days. It happened in the Charlotte game. The Cleveland game was OK, didn’t feel great, but we played well. My mindset (Tuesday at New Orleans) was try to do as much as I can. I wasn’t gonna come out at the end of the game. It’s just being smart, really. It’s not something I see being long.”
The Heat are certainly hoping that is the case, as Deng has become a main cog of their success and they are not able to recover without him on the court. While getting Deng back as soon as possible would be nice, the Heat have to make sure that he does not aggravate the injury, making it a lingering issue.
Deng is currently listed as questionable for the game against the Orlando Magic tonight, but it may be smart for the Heat to hold him out one more game to make sure that he is 100 percent. If he sits against the Magic, he would have almost a full week of rest, as the Heat’s next game is not until Mar. 30 against the Brooklyn Nets.
It is something the Heat will have to strongly consider, as rushing Deng back before he is ready could cause more problems than they want to deal with.