A hobbled Dwyane Wade was not at his best when the Miami Heat lost for the first time earlier this week to the Atlanta Hawks.
After a foot injury kept him out of the Heat's last contest, Wade hopes he'll have a chance to be better when the teams meet again for the second time in four days.
Teammate LeBron James also hopes he'll be healthy enough to be on the floor for Wade's possible return as the visiting Heat look to avenge their lone defeat Thursday night against the Hawks.
Wade watched as Miami (6-1) rolled to a 118-83 win over Indiana on Wednesday. Bothered by a bruised foot he suffered at Charlotte on Dec. 28, Wade said playing games on Sunday and Monday increased the soreness.
With the condensed schedule, he felt it was best to sit to prevent a relatively minor issue from turning into a major problem. Miami concludes a stretch of four games in five days when it opens a five-game trip Thursday.
"As much as I want to be out there, my team needs me to be Dwyane Wade and not somebody else on the floor,'' said Wade, who has averaged a modest 15.8 points on 40.0 percent shooting in the four games he's played with the injury.
"I know my feet are a big part of my game. I've got to get it taken care of.''
He finished with 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting but dished out 10 assists in the Heat's 100-92 home loss to Atlanta (4-2) on Monday.
James, who had 33 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds versus Indiana, scored 28 against the Hawks. However, he continued to play Wednesday despite injuring his left ankle late in the third quarter.
"It's been better, but it feels OK,'' said James, averaging a league-leading 29.9 points on 59.5 percent shooting. "We'll see how I feel.''
James totaled 77 points on 26-of-42 shooting in two games at Atlanta last season, including 43 in a 106-85 win March 18. However, like Wade, coach Erik Spoelstra does not want to take any chances with his other superstar.
"We will have to see,'' Spoelstra said. "He has sprained that same ankle every year, he says at least one time a year.''
Being without either Wade or James would certainly hinder Miami, which collectively struggled against Atlanta's zone defense in the second half and was outscored 33-21 in the fourth quarter Monday.
"We need to work through it,'' Spoelstra said of facing a zone. "We're going to see enough of it that we will have our breakthrough. We hope to have it sooner than later.''
Though the Hawks managed to reach triple digits Monday, the Heat have held them to 83.7 points per contest during a three-game winning streak at Atlanta.
Undefeated in two home games this season, the Hawks return to Philips Arena looking to bounce back after they blew a 19-point lead in a 76-74 loss at Chicago on Tuesday.
Atlanta, which shot 35.0 percent and went 14 of 25 from the free-throw line, was outscored 34-18 in the fourth quarter while reigning MVP Derrick Rose scored 17 of his 30 points.
"We stopped defending with the intensity that we did in the first three quarters,'' said coach Larry Drew, whose team begins a stretch of three games in three days. "We didn't make our free throws going down the stretch. If you don't make your free throws you can't expect to win.''
Atlanta star Joe Johnson scored 21 points at Miami on Monday, but has averaged just 11.7 during the three-game home skid to the Heat.