In the wake of a pair of confidence-building, optimism-creating performances, Victor Oladipo was given the night off Thursday against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center.
Not because there is anything wrong with the veteran Miami Heat guard, but rather because it all is going quite well at the moment.
Five games into his comeback from preseason knee pain, Oladipo was, as expected, held out of Thursday’s second night of the Heat’s back-to-back set that opened with Wednesday night’s 110-108 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Also given the night off Thursday, ostensibly for rest, were veteran point guard Kyle Lowry and veteran center Dewayne Dedmon.
While playing both ends of a back-to-back set at this point might be asking a bit much from Oladipo at 30, Wednesday showed how significant the progress has been, with Oladipo utilized for 31 minutes, 8 seconds — eight minutes longer than any of his previous four appearances since his season debut on Dec. 6.
“There’s not a hard, set line of his minutes,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We would like to keep it less than it was [Wednesday]. But I communicated with him and the training staff, and they said, ‘OK, let it roll.’
“He felt great. He’s been putting in a lot of work and this is something that, I think, he’s been able to really take the last 2 1/2 months at a healthy rate to build himself up to be able to handle minutes.”
Oladipo closed with 12 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals against the Thunder, playing as the Heat’s sixth man. That was a game after he went 18:50 in Monday night’s victory over the Indiana Pacers at the start of this four-game trip, when he closed with five points, four rebounds and four assists, also playing as sixth man.
“I’m just getting better and better and stronger and stronger every game,” Oladipo said of this latest career comeback, after a series of knee and quad injuries. “It’s different. Obviously right now we’re kind of doing different things to find my rhythm. So just go out there and play as hard as I can for as long as I can and continue to stay confident.”
Oladipo had no issue with his Wednesday minutes, although one stint proved trying.
“I think he would have let me play a little longer,” he said of Spoelstra. “I just got a little tired in the second quarter.”
But back-to-backs are a different story, yet to play on both ends of a back-to-back these past three seasons, which also includes time with the Pacers and Rockets.
“I got to listen to my body, obviously, to see how I respond,” he said, with the Heat closing out their trip Saturday against the San Antonio Spurs in Mexico City. “In all seriousness, it’s just a day-to-day thing. So I’m sure eventually I’ll be able to soon.”
As for Lowry, the lone previous game he had missed was when he was given off the Dec. 8 home victory over the Los Angeles Clippers for rest. For Dedmon, it stands as his sixth missed game of the season, as he deals with plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
Because of the shifting with the injury report, the Heat on Thursday recalled Jamal Cain, the forward who is on a two-way contract, and first-round pick Nikola Jovic, the big man out of Serbia, from their G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Jovic, however, is dealing with back spasms experienced in the Skyforce’s Wednesday night victory.
Because of timing conflicts with the Miami Dolphins’ Saturday night game against the Buffalo Bills on WQAM, coverage of the Heat’s Saturday 5 p.m. game against the San Antonio Spurs, as well as pregame and postgame programming, will be shifted to 790-AM and 104.3 FM HD 2.