Miami needed every minute in all seven games of last season's NBA Finals to eliminate the Spurs. In their 6th game of the preseason, the outcome was locked up early as Dwyane Wade carried the Heat to a 121 - 96 dismantling of San Antonio.
Sitting out the game for "some maintenance", LeBron James watched as Wade efficiently led all scorers with 25 points on 10 of 14 shooting. Wade also added four rebounds, three steals, and seven assists, as he displayed an exciting array of long-distance shots, drives to the hoop and quick passes to open teammates along the perimeter.
Chris Bosh continued his excellent preseason with 17 points (8 of 10 shooting, including 1 three-pointer). James Jones shot his way out of a slump with 6 of 8 from long range (18 points). The Heat shot extremely well from beyond the arc, hitting 7 of their first 8 and eventually finishing 13 of 28 for the game. The team was sharp from the start, hitting their first 5 shots to race out to a quick 8-point lead after three minutes of play.
As for the Spurs, the veteran team seemed to play somewhat shell-shocked from the start, perhaps still imagining the yellow ropes being pulled away from the court following the emotional losses in games 6 and 7 of last year's Finals. While the steady Tim Duncan chipped in 9 points, Tony Parker went scoreless in 18 minutes (on 0 for 4 shooting) and Manu Ginobili added 13 points after missing badly on a number of shots.
The well-coached and consistently excellent Spurs will surely contend for a title, and the team's future looks particularly bright with the incredible play of Kawhi Leonard. In only 12 minutes of play, Leonard looked in mid-season (and brilliant) form, scoring 17 points (on a tight 6 of 7 shooting) from all over the floor. Head Coach Greg Popovich substituted early and often, going deep on the bench and inserting 15 different players during the game. Key contributions came from Marco Bellinelli (15 points) and Aron Baynes (8 points).
But the final score never seemed in doubt, especially with Wade confidently slicing up the Spurs usually-tight defense. He seemed refreshed and active, starting off his scoring on a number of long jumpshots, and intercepting a number of errant passes. Adding a beautiful turn-around jumper - and his patented "euro-step" drive to the hoop that drew the home crowd to their feet - Wade seemed ready to remind the NBA world that reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated.
The Heat's bench was solid, with Norris Cole looking particularly sharp. Roger Mason Jr., the ex-Spur, was somewhat shaky (7 points on 2 of 7 shooting) but had three assists, including one great pass while on the move to a cutting Bosh for an emphatic slam when the Spurs closed to within 6.
Michael Beasley was even more erratic, looking somewhat out of place. In his first minute of play, he turned the ball over, committed a foul and missed his first shot. Playing the entire 4th quarter, he finished with 12 points (6 of 14 shots) and chipped in four rebounds. It should be noted that the Miami fans cheered loudly every time Beasley made a play - if there was any doubt he wasn't supported locally, that was quickly erased.
The Heat (4 - 2) travel for their next matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans, the former Hornets team that revamped their roster in the offseason and is off to an undefeated start (5 -0) in the preseason. That game is set for Wednesday, October 23, at 8 p.m.