With four minutes and 27 seconds left in the Miami Heat’s penultimate preseason game against the Charlotte Hornets, Rodney McGruder capped off a steal from Kemba Walker with a transition dunk. The guard competing for a Heat roster spot had made a floater 13 seconds earlier, and had helped bring Miami to within 85-84 in a game the Heat trailed by as many as 20 points.
Unfortunately, McGruder’s fortune soon turned, and so did that of the Heat.
McGruder missed a 3-point shot on the Heat’s ensuing possession. After Michael Kidd-Gilchrist made a layup to put the Hornets up three, McGruder committed an offensive foul to turn the ball over. The Heat never got closer, and fell 96-88 to the team they defeated in the playoffs last year.
Despite the late flubs, McGruder still put together a strong performance in this exhibition game. The starting shooting guard on the Heat’s D-League Sioux Falls Skyforce team last year scored 19 points Thursday on 7-of-15 shooting from the field and 4-of-9 shooting from downtown. The 6-foot-5 guard also picked up three steals in the game and defended lengthy players like Nicolas Batum.
Erik Spoelstra used this game to give the players who are competing for the last roster spots a long look. It’s why Goran Dragic and Tyler Johnson didn’t play, and Hassan Whiteside and Dion Waiters didn’t play in the second half. Spoelstra had players named Luis Montero, Vashil Fernandez and Okaro White playing in the fourth quarter (if you don’t know those names, that’s the point).
And Miami had other bright spots from this game. White, the versatile 6-foot-8 forward who played on the Heat’s summer league team this year, had a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. He appears to stand as a big man suited to today’s NBA game — able to play multiple positions and shoot the ball (it must be noted, though, that White made just 1 of his 6 attempts from 3-point land tonight).
Willie Reed continued to prove his worth as a serviceable backup center to Whiteside, finishing with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting, five rebounds and four blocks in 22 minutes. He even caught a couple of alley oop passes after rolling to the basket to help fuel a third-quarter run that put the Heat back in the game.
And finally, Luis Montero showed the Heat something tonight. Miami only signed Montero, the long Dominican guard, two days ago. And the 6-foot-7 former Portland Trail Blazer was not shy — immediately after checking in, he stole the ball from Batum and launched an errant 3-point attempt.
But later in the quarter, he made a 3-pointer and a floater, both off of assists from Briante Weber. (As a team the Heat had 23 assists on 31 made field goals.) He also has the vision to make cross-court passes. We’ll see if he ends up on the Heat’s D-League team.
The Heat will wrap up preseason play tomorrow night against the Philadelphia 76ers at 7:30.