The Miami Heat looked impressive in their initial preseason game without Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, using a balanced attack, en route to a 106-95 victory on the road against the Washington Wizards.
Coach Erik Spoelstra’s starting five featured Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Justise Winslow, Luke Babbitt and Hassan Whiteside. Spo was intent on spacing the court to give Dragic and Whiteside room for operating in the paint.
With 20 points and 13 rebounds, Whiteside delivered the goods, as promised, while in the game. Noticeably only committing fouls in the second half, it was a welcome change after last season’s early foul problems had him benched for large parts of some games -- even if this was just one preseason outing.
Miami took care of business quickly, ending the first quarter up by 13 points, 35-22, and finishing the half with an impressive 61-44 edge, on pace for a 120-point game. After building a 26 point cushion during the third quarter, the Wizards scored 10 unanswered points to finish down only 16 points going into the final stanza. The reserves looked shaky in the last quarter, but a case of nerves normally happens when they try doing too much fighting for a job.
The biggest surprise was the outstanding contribution newcomer Dion Waiters made running the show with 12 points on 6 of 10 shooting, 8 assists and only a single turnover. Watch what he did when the Wizards, who were missing All-Star guard John Wall, worried about keeping close tabs on Miami’s perimeter threats and left the driving lanes open for easy dunks at the rim.
Between Dragic and Waiters, Miami have a solid duo handling the rock for the entire 48 minutes of the game, without missing a beat. A noticeably slimmer and quicker Winslow finished the game with a team-leading +20 in the +/- column, followed by Whiteside’s +19 and Dragic’s +16. The Heat could have ended the game by a larger point spread than the eventual 106-95 win, if it had been a regular season contest.
The biggest takeaway was the 27 assists on its 43 made baskets, which was good enough for 55 FG% overall accuracy and 48% from beyond the arc. Miami easily won the game despite taking 11 less attempts than Wizards.
To show the depth of the team, three rotation players, Josh Richardson, Josh McRoberts, and Beno Udrih weren’t in uniform, along with Bosh, who still counts on the 15-man roster. They weren’t even missed. James Johnson displayed his skills as yet another ball-handler who can finish at the rim, aided by a crushing friendly pick by Udonis Haslem to help him along.
We you James Johnson!— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) October 5, 2016
Coast to coast pic.twitter.com/d8ePHJW5wj
Fans wondered who was going to take the clutch shots this season after Wade left town. Tonight’s game answered that question: when Miami leads the game by double-digits from the first quarter to the finish, a make-or-break basket isn’t necessary. We can’t help but wonder what Wade thought of tonight’s commanding performance by his former team.