It's tough to get a handle on this new Miami Heat squad. At times I'm extremely impressed with their resilience, playmaking ability and athleticism, but at other instances I'm absolutely disgusted at their ghastly defensive ability, and general sloppiness. As a result of this uneven play, Miami's recent games tend to follow an up-and-down pace, and tonight's matchup against the Atlanta Hawks was no different.
Miami came out on fire, keeping Atlanta scoreless for the first 3.5 minutes and as a result taking a 14-point lead. Led by Norris Cole, Miami seemed to be consistent on both offense and defense and for a long while outplayed the Hawks.
The Heat maintained their scoring pace throughout the first half, but sacrificed easy baskets on defense that allowed the Hawks to chip away at the lead and remain in the contest. With the Heat looking confused on defense, things looked bleak headed into halftime, besides a spectacular three-point shot by Dwyane Wade (yes, that Wade).
The third quarter is where everything fell apart, Miami allowed the Hawks to score 43 points and almost put the game to bed early. It was the rookies, along with Shannon Brown who brought excitement back to the game in the fourth quarter cutting the lead down to single digits, but ultimately it was no use as Wade missed two out of three free throws to create a one possession game in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.
- The Heat can catch fire. They did so to open the game, and in turn took at 14 point lead and kept Atlanta scoreless for 3.5 minutes.
- Norris Cole, has made a strong case for the starting point guard position. His aggressiveness, and court vision has improved significantly, and he appears to have tremendous chemistry with the Heat roster, most notably with Wade.
- Danny Granger finally appears to have found his footing, and did well in a starting role. He moved extremely well off-the ball and demonstrated a strong lift on his jumpers, thus allowing him to showcase his range where he shot 3 for 6. Granger had 11 points total.
- Chris Bosh's shooting stroke is a thing of beauty. Despite making the case in recent interviews that he doesn't have his game legs yet, Bosh was stellar putting together a stat line of 22 points and 9 rebounds.
- I like our rookies. I've been hypercritical of Shabazz Napier in the past, but he's delivered twice in a row and I, like many Heat enthusiasts have taken notice. The clutch gene, is clearly evident within his smooth shooting stroke (that seems to have been adjusted for NBA play) and he is consistently delivering in key situations. James Ennis is also a monster, and will be a breakout player for Miami this season. He is an on ball menace, and a versatile scorer and most encouraging of all he brings an influx of energy off of the bench. Ennis had five steals, and seems as if he will give players fits this coming season.
- Shannon Brown made his case for a roster spot, scoring 10 points, grabbing 4 rebounds and delivering on various high flying dunks.
- Wade was average tonight. Not good, not abysmal, but just average. He forced jumpers, looked exhausted, walked on defense, argued for calls, got trapped in double teams and just seemed out of place. While not overly concerning because it is preseason, it's never good to have your star player doubt themselves.
- Miami let Atlanta score 43 points in one quarter. That's terrible.
- Luol Deng couldn't hit the side of a barn, shooting 1-6 from the field in 20 minutes played and missing all of his three point attempts.