Erik Spoelstra has probably already looked over the Miami Heat's game against the Boston Celtics last night, and he found a lot that he liked. He definitely didn't like the fact that Miami allowed 107 points against a team that has seen some offensive slippage over the last few years. But he has to like that Miami held off a late Celtics rally while LeBron James rested with leg cramps. Moreover, the Heat also played well in other stretches without at least one member of the Big Three.
The best stretch came in the last three-and-a-half minutes of the third quarter, with both Wade and James sitting. Allen showed that he's more than just a shooter, finding Chris Bosh for a hook shot and then a wide-open Rashard Lewis at the elbow for a jumper. But then Allen drove on Kevin Garnett -- who gave his former teammate the cold shoulder after he checked into the game -- and made a nice layup over his outstretched arm. Miami finally has a dynamic offensive option off the bench, and Allen finished with 19 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field. (As an aside, it's also good to have Allen on the floor to take technical free throws. Miami won't leave many points on the board this year.) The Heat extended a seven-point lead to 17 by the end of the quarter, all without their two best players.
Mario Chalmers continued to show his growth as a player, finishing with eight points, 11 assists and only one turnover. He made impressive, on-point passes to Bosh and Dwyane Wade for fourth-quarter dunks and made a key layup with 3:40 left to give Miami a 111-101 lead. Bosh's late decisive points to keep Boston at bay all came with the 6-foot-11 big man and Chalmers working an efficient two-man game. It remains to be seen whether Chalmers will continue his erratic play from past seasons, but the four-year guard is off to a good start.
Like Allen and Chalmers, Rashard Lewis had a good game to start the season. I thought that Lewis' days as a productive NBA player were over, but he pleasantly surprised me last night. Although he shot 4-of-5 from the field, his best moment was blocking Jared Sullinger's layup attempt in the second quarter. Lewis still has to brush up on his positioning on both ends of the floor, but that block and his five rebounds in 20 minutes are encouraging signs. Offensively, the former SuperSonic saved a broken Heat possession during that crucial third-quarter stretch. With only three seconds on the shot clock, Lewis posted up near the basked and made an easy lay-in. Ray Allen also bailed out a possession with a banked-in 3 with the shot clock expiring. Those plays to save possessions with the shot clock ticking down are vastly beneficial in close games.
Now with a legitimate fourth option in Allen, continuing improvement from Chalmers and Lewis showing signs of offensive prowess and defensive competency, the Heat are a deep team. The Big Three won't have to log big minutes during the regular season because Miami offense now won't devolve into isolation-heavy sets without the entire Big Three on the court. Spoelstra certainly found some areas for improvement in the opening game, but Miami's depth represents an undeniable plus.