Basketball is back. The NBA regular season kicked off Tuesday night and it hasn’t disappointed so far; a double overtime thriller in Orlando and a 53 point night for Steph Curry owned the headlines. For the Miami Heat, it was an up and down opening week with an overall good result, finishing 2-1.
The Heat got things started out against the Charlotte Hornets at home. Chris Bosh made his long-awaited return to the court after missing the last half of last season and Justice Winslow made his Heat debut, stamping it with a early dunk of the year candidate. After a slow start, Miami would go on a 26-6 run in the second quarter and beat the Hornets, 104-94, behind 20 point games from Bosh and Dwyane Wade.
On the road, Miami faced the Cleveland Cavaliers in their home opener. The Heat couldn’t gain cohesiveness as the Cavs chipped away from the beginning of the game. Miami kept up with the Cavs for the majority of the game; Wade brought the Heat to as close as 3 after a vintage dunk over Tristan Thompson but the Cavs would turn it up a notch after that. Miami threw several defenders at LeBron James, including young Winslow, but none of them could properly stop him as the "King" finished with 25 points on 12-19 shooting. Kevin Love also showed off his versatility, helping James with 25 points, 14 rebound and 5 assists. Wade’s 25 points and Whiteside’s 6 blocks couldn’t keep Miami in it as the Cavs pulled away late and won 102-92.
Back in Miami on Sunday, the Heat faced a hungry, winless Houston team that lost back-to-back 20-point games at home. The eagerness to win showed as the Houston Rockets pounded the Heat for the first 25 minutes of the game. Coupled with 19 first half points from Marcus Throrton and a lack of energy from Miami saw the Heat fall behind by 21 points early in the third.
A "fiery" speech at halftime from tri-captain Udonis Haslem set a fire for the Heat that would spread in the second half. They cracked at the lead as Wade, Whiteside and Luol Deng brought the Heat within single digits before the reserves tied the game at the end of the third. After a couple of Rocket buckets to start the 4th, the Heat would begin to terrorize the Rockets as they finished the game on a 34-10 run. Unable to score in the first 3 quarters, Bosh’s 10 4th quarter points put the Heat ahead. Tyler Johnson would come off the bench and provide much needed defensive energy but it was Winslow’s stellar defense on Harden, holding the superstar to 2-15 shooting, that put the Heat ahead for good. In a offensive groove, Wade and Whiteside connected on a few alley-oops and a couple Heat players hit threes to see their 21 point deficit turn into a 20 point win. Whiteside’s 25 points and 15 rebounds on 12-15 shooting was shining on the stat sheet as he led the Heat to an impressive 109-89 comeback win against the Rockets.
It wasn’t a perfect opening week for the Heat but it was a pretty one. Goran Dragic has yet to strive in this system with the Heat and though Whiteside has played well, consistency has been an issue. Gerald Green has cooled off since his opening night 19-point game and will need to be more dependable as the Heat’s primary 6th man. Spo will have his work cut out for him as he tries to find some lineup consistency but he can’t be upset at what he’s seen so far.
Reserves have stepped up when the starters couldn’t, Whiteside and Winslow have shown great defensive displays, and Wade and Bosh look like they can still hold their own. The 33-year-old Wade has had at least 20 points in each of the Heat’s first three games, the first time he’s accomplished the nominal streak since 2009. A spirited comeback win against the Rockets has given the Heat some confidence as they head into week 2.
The Heat will split the upcoming week with two games on the road and two games at home. They’ll go against the Atlanta Hawks (Tue - 7:30 PM), Minnesota Timberwolves (Thu - 8:00 PM), Indiana Pacers (Fri - 8:00 PM) and Toronto Raptors (Sun - 6:00 PM)