Keys to the Game: Bulls at Heat (01.30.19)
The Miami Heat will begin life without Derrick Jones when they play host to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.
The high-flying wing injured his right knee in the second quarter of Miami's 106-97 win over the New York Knicks on Sunday and is expected to miss at least six weeks.
In 37 games this season, including five starts, Jones is averaging 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in 18.1 minutes while shooting better than 51 percent from the floor.
Jones, who made his NBA debut with the Phoenix Suns in the 2016-17 season after going undrafted out of UNLV, was having a career year in terms of scoring and rebounding before he got hurt when he was fouled on a drive to the rim.
"It looked like it could've been way worse," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the injury. "It was scary."
Jones, 21, will miss at least 17 games, but Spoelstra said he is hoping youth will be on his side.
"Hopefully," Spoelstra recently told reporters, "he will heal faster than we would."
In the meantime, the Heat seemingly have more than enough depth to face the Bulls, who lost 122-117 at the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night.
The Bulls have lost four straight and are 0-2 against Miami this season. Wednesday's game is the season finale for the teams. Miami is looking for its first sweep of Chicago since the 2015-16 season.
The Bulls are without first-round pick Wendell Carter, who has a thumb injury and is likely out another eight weeks or more. He is seventh on the team in scoring (10.3), third in rebounds (7.0) and first in blocks (1.3).
The Bulls have lost five of six without him, part of a 1-13 skid the team is currently on.
"You're always disappointed when you don't win," Bulls coach Jim Boylen told the media recently.
Forward Lauri Markkanen -- one of the bright spots on a dark Bulls season -- has improved this season and had 18 points and a career-high 19 rebounds on Tuesday.
After missing the first 23 games to this his sophomore NBA season due to a sprained right elbow, Markkanen is averaging 17.1 points and 7.4 rebounds.
Even so, he'd like to be rewarded with a few more wins.
"It's frustrating to lose, but we've got to keep our heads up," Markkanen said earlier this week. "The beauty of this league is that we have another game coming up. Nobody's going to feel sorry for us."
That's certainly true of the Heat, who are looking for their third straight win as they attempt to make a playoff push.
Miami is led in scoring by Josh Richardson and his 17.5 points per game. Center Hassan Whiteside is averaging 12.6 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. Point guard Justise Winslow is averaging 12.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists.
But perhaps Miami's biggest strength is its bench. Even without Jones plus guards Dwyane Wade and Tyler Johnson -- who have leg injuries and are questionable for Wednesday -- the Heat reserves have been strong all season.
In Sunday's win over the Knicks, for example, reserve guard Wayne Ellington started and led Miami with 19 points.
Ellington has been a healthy scratch for numerous games this season, but he has remained ready for Spoelstra's call.
"You never stop putting in the work," Ellington said. "It's been tough (the healthy scratches). But my teammates always feed me that confidence and energy."
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