With the regular season set to begin on Wednesday against the Washington Wizards, it was difficult to predict exactly how Erik Spoelstra would handle the rotation for Friday's game against the Washington Wizards. He went with a mixed approach, sitting key players like Danny Granger (flu-like symptoms), Luol Deng (sore back), Udonis Haslem, Chris Andersen and, unfortunately, Josh McRoberts, whose lingering toe injury makes him questionable for opening night.
Instead, Chris Bosh (21 points, 6 rebounds) and Dwyane Wade (16 points) led the team to a nice win over the Grit n' Grind Grizzlies. James Ennis got the start in place of Deng and struggled, looking rusty after seeing his minutes reduced in the last two games. When Wade picked up two quick fouls in the first, Spoelstra inserted Mario Chalmers and Justin Hamilton, getting his first minutes following heart surgery just weeks ago.
Bosh and Wade were sensational in the first half, finishing with 29 combined points and giving Miami a 54-48 lead. Ennis started to come alive in the 3rd period, eventually finishing with 10 points. With a significant lead in the 3rd, Bosh left the game and Spoelstra used a three-guard lineup with Norris Cole, Chalmers and Shabazz Napier, a possible option with the improved play of Napier. Chalmers' hot shooting as the sixth man continues to impress (he went 4-of-5 with 11 points) and Cole looked good running the floor, finishing with 14 points on 5-6 shooting.
With the game firmly in hand, Spoelstra gave the players on the bubble some minutes and it was not disappointing; in fact, his upcoming roster decisions might have been made more difficult. It's largely expected that four players are vying for three spots - Shannon Brown, Hamilton, Andre Dawkins and Khem Birch. Brown struggled tonight but fits the role of experienced veteran that Miami has always favored. Hamilton (7 points, 3-of-6) eventually shook off the rust and started to hit from outside but his defense is still a weakness. Dawkins' shooting is impressive; while he might be one-dimensional in this regard, he fills a key void for Miami. As for Birch, his athleticism and energy definitely provide a boost. While his offense borders on nonexistent, he hustles for every rebound (grabbing 6) and had 3 blocks.
The Grizzlies sat key players in the third and were led by John Leuer (21 points). Still, they weren't taking the game lightly, as evidenced by Zach Randolph (12 points) who got a little testy with Miami's Shawne Williams (10 points). Both players were assessed technical fouls - preseason excitement!
The game was a fun, final tune-up before Wednesday night and the players competing for a final roster spot took advantage of the playing time, in each case showcasing what they do well and making a case for sticking around.
With Monday's deadline for trimming the roster to 15, it should be a difficult choice to make.
Let us know who you think you should make the final roster! And be sure to check Hot Hot Hoops regularly for the latest news and analysis.