As the buzzer sounded on the first half of the Miami Heat’s preseason game against the Orlando Magic Tuesday night, Dion Waiters launched a shot in front of three defenders from just inside the half-court line.
It was nothing but net. It was that kind of night for the Heat.
The Heat dominated the Magic 107-77 to improve to 4-2 in exhibition play. After the Waiters buzzer-beater, the Heat went on a tear to start the third quarter. Dribble penetration from Goran Dragic helped a 10-point Heat halftime lead balloon to 72-50 by the midway point of the third quarter. Whether he found Willie Reed for a slam dunk or made room for himself to make a step-back jumper, Dragic catalyzed the Heat offense.
These two teams will meet to open the Heat’s 2016-17 regular season a week from tomorrow. And while preseason superiority doesn’t necessarily correlate well with regular season success, the Heat players will win games this year playing how they played tonight. Even with the absences of Hassan Whiteside (death of his great grandmother), Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson (ailments), the Heat’s identity didn’t change — an athletic, free-flowing team scrapping hard on both ends of the court.
Dragic finished with 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field, four rebounds and five assists. In a possible preview of this season, Erik Spoelstra played with a lot of lineups with three guards — and it worked well tonight. As I’ve said before, these small lineup will stand as the Heat’s best lineups this year.
Dragic, Dion Waiters, Tyler Johnson, Rodney McGruder and Briante Weber all played well together. Johnson shot 6-of-9 from the field for 15 points. Waiters also added 15 points, on 5-of-9 shooting. Weber had four steals, and McGruder was a +29 on the court in his 23 minutes.
Another bright spot for Miami was Willie Reed, who started at center in Whiteside’s absence. The young center played admirably, finishing with 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field and 14 rebounds, a double-double. Reed also made his best Whiteside impression with two nice blocks — one of which came after he moved from one side of the court to the other to reject a layup.
The Heat’s other players also got in on the block party, and the Heat’s official Twitter account provided a nice compilation.
Throwing a #HEATBlockParty for our big man @YoungWhiteside tonight. pic.twitter.com/BabJFPWx1X— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) October 19, 2016
Miami also made 10 3-pointers Tuesday night in their 30-point blowout win, a bright spot for a team that has not had good 3-point shooting in recent years. Wayne Ellington, who started at the small forward position in place of Winslow, knocked down 4 of his 6 attempts from beyond the arc. With players like Ellington, Waiters, Johnson and Richardson, this team has the potential to have some huge nights from 3-point range.
The Heat will visit the Charlotte Hornets for their penultimate preseason game Thursday at 7 p.m.