The Miami Heat started their 2017 preseason as they ended the 2016-17 season: winning.
If Sunday’s preseason opener against the Atlanta Hawks are an indication, it was a smart move to largely bring back the team that went 30-11 to end last season.
The Heat defeated the Hawks 96-90, using some decisive defense in the third quarter thanks to Josh Richardson and a 12-0 run early in the fourth to pull away. Miami’s preseason opener also featured some positive developments from Wayne Ellington, Kelly Olynyk and Justise Winslow.
J. Rich having a monster 3rd quarter defensively! pic.twitter.com/eR9nLveF74— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) October 1, 2017
Richardson finished with 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field and four blocked shots in 24 minutes off the bench. Richardson played more than what one would expect him to play in the regular season — partly because it’s preseason and partly because Goran Dragic, who competed in the EuroBasket tournament this year, played just 13 minutes. But seeing the Heat’s 2015 second-round pick play well after an injury-plagued sophomore season is encouraging.
Miami’s other rookie from the 2015 Draft was back on the court for the first time since his season-ending injury 10 months ago. He had a solid game, shooting 3-of-6 from the field, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking three shots.
In the fourth quarter, Winslow played a lot of “point forward,” taking the ball up-court for Miami and initiating plays. James Johnson played that role for the Heat, but he started Sunday. If Johnson remains a starter, it may make more sense to give more of the ball-handling duties to Winslow — the Heat do not have a prototypical backup point guard behind Dragic.
In a bit of a surprise, the Heat’s 2017 first-round pick, Bam Adebayo, didn’t play until the fourth quarter. Adebayo’s five-minute stint was a mixed bag. On the one hand, Adebayo showed a deft post game, drawing four fouls in his limited minutes. He got good position, utilized masterful footwork and out-smarted his defenders. On the other hand, Adebayo shot an abysmal 1-for-8 from the free-throw line. The Heat already have one uneven free throw shooter in Hassan Whiteside. If the Heat rookie can’t deliver on his free throws, it could limit his minutes.
Instead of playing Adebayo, Erik Spoelstra played Kelly Olynyk a lot. The Heat’s biggest free agent acquisition (the whole Gordon Hayward thing didn’t work out, you know?) played 22 minutes and had a solid game. Olynyk shot 3-for-4 from the field, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out five assists.
The 7-foot shooter made two straight jumpers in the fourth quarter to help the Heat pull away. Minutes later, Olynyk found himself double-teamed in the post. Olynyk made an on-target cross-court pass to Wayne Ellington, who drained a 3. Olynyk displayed the versatility of his game, which was a reason the Heat offered him a four-year contract.
All in all, a nice game from the Heat. Miami will visit the Brooklyn Nets Thursday at 7:30 p.m.