The first play of the game was a sample of what was to come.
After controlling the opening tip, the Heat stumbled to get a quality shot off. As the shot clock almost ran out, Chris Bosh found himself in the corner (Ray Allen's corner, by the way) and hoisted up a 3-pointer that saw nothing but net. Only problem is that they counted it as a regular basket.
Although it was later amended, the shot was what this team is all about - it may not always look pretty, but a good result comes from hard work.
Bosh was spectacular all night, finishing with 26 points,15 rebounds and 4 assists. Any questions surrounding his ability to lead the team, at least statistically, were certainly answered. He worked in the paint, getting past the Wizards' Marcin Gortat with ease, and knocked down perimeter shots with ease (3-of-4 from beyond the arc). While he may not be the player he was in Toronto, he could be better:
The last four years were the best thing that could happen for Bosh.Allowed him time to add to game while never forgetting about the post— Shandel Richardson (@ShandelRich) October 30, 2014
The Wiz were led by journeyman Drew Gooden, who had a surprisingly hot night with 18 points to tie Gortat for the top Washington scorers. Paul Pierce was as deadly as ever early on but tapered off as the game went on, finishing with 17 points but missing open jumpers in the fourth quarter.
Dwyane Wade had a great night as well (21 points) but gave the #HeatNation a collective heart attack when he fell to the ground in the third quarter clutching his leg. As he scrambled for a loose ball, Pierce and Garrett Temple collided with Wade and he struggled to get up. As he limped off the court and into the locker room, the season hovered on the brink. What was originally thought to be a calf injury turned out to be less severe than expected and Wade made a triumphant return in the fourth, cutting crisply to the basket and hitting key jumpshots - including a 3-pointer - down the stretch.
Norris Cole was, in a word, outstanding. As the starting point guard, he seemed to embrace the challenge of facing John Wall and matching his speed and athleticism. His 23 points came at the rim, from mid-range and from waaaaaay downtown, hitting a 28-foot shot with confidence to extend the Heat lead in the 4th. Mario Chalmers, now in a crucial role off the bench, was solid (8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists in 25 minutes).
The biggest surprise off the bench was Erik Spoelstra sticking to the rotation we saw in the preseason and giving rookies Shabazz Napier and James Ennis some minutes early in the game and at key points when Wade was in the locker room.
Two rookies, Ennis & Napier, are both in the opening-night rotation. That hasn't happened since 2008.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) October 30, 2014
Good thing, too, because Ennis' fourth-quarter dunk on Rasual Butler threatened to blow the AmericanAirlines Arena into the middle of Biscayne Bay:
Ennis was shaky at points but more than made up for it with his merciless destruction of the rim and Butler's career.
Luol Deng had a solid night (12 points) but seemed to struggle early on, misplaying a couple of easy passes that could have increased an early lead. Shawne Williams, inconsistent in the preseason, had a rough night and went only 1-of-9 for 3 points. Hopefully, he'll find a way to bounce back on Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers.
A night that started with a stirring video tribute to the fans and franchise ended on a great note as the Heat shut down the Wizards late in the game and pulled out a thrilling victory.
Check back with Hot Hot Hoops for analysis and more leading up to Miami's next matchup.