The 2017-18 NBA season commenced in earnest for the Miami Heat tonight in Orlando, to less than spectacular results. Is this the 11-30 Heat from last season, the 30-11 club that closed the campaign, or somewhere in the middle of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? I read somewhere that all five of Miami’s starters finished in double-digits, but so did Orlando’s (and they won).
Five Stars is an ongoing series where we dig into the box score and figure who had the biggest positive impact on every Heat game through the season. Using the GameScore metric to measure overall effectiveness takes into account mostly offensive contributions. While this is far from a perfect solution, I’ve added a small adjustment for plus/minus to address the shortcoming.
Hassan Whiteside (MIA) 26.8
Whiteside started strong in the first quarter, with six points and seven rebounds before sitting. He collected a Heat opening-night record 22 boards in all (five offensive), eclipsing Antoine Walker’s 16 rebounds in 2005, and later joined Don MaClean (2-for-2) as the only Heat player with a career 1.000 three-point shooting percentage.
It was his first career attempt from beyond the arc, and seemed to awaken the Heat, who went on a 19-to-6 run to close the gap to two points. Unfortunately, the run ended when Evan Fournier drilled a three-pointer with 2:27 left on the clock, and Orlando outscored the Heat down the stretch by an 11-to-6 margin.
For his part, Whiteside ended up with 26 points on 11-for-16 shooting, including the three-pointer, and also went three-for-three from the stripe. He added an assist and a block, earning a minus-5 rating for the game.
We gotta go back to the drawing board and look at the film and see the opportunities we missed on defense. - Whiteside
Nikola Vucevic (ORL) 21.9
Vucevic went six-for-12 in 31 minutes for the victors, scoring 19 points and earning the Second Star despite missing all three of his deep-range attempts. He sunk seven-of-eight from the foul line, and pulled down a dozen boards (all but two defensive). Additionally, Vucevic issued two rejections, collected two steals, dished out one assist, and finished with a game-second best plus-11 rating.
Terrence Ross (ORL) 18.5
Ross matched Vucevic’s 31 minutes, and scored 15 points on five-of-11 shooting. He went three-for-seven from three-point range, two-for-two from the line, and collected six defensive rebounds. He also had two steals, dished out four helpers, and finished with a game-best plus-18 rating.
Evan Fournier (ORL) 17.5
Fournier tied with Aaron Gordon for the most time on the floor for the Magic, clocking in at 34 minutes. He led Orlando with 23 points on nine-of-17 shooting, drilling three-of-five from deep and sinking both of his free throws. Fournier distributed three assists, pulled down one defensive rebound, and stole the ball once, finishing the night at minus-2.
Elfrid Payton (ORL) 14.1
Payton made his only three pointer and finished six-of-12 from the field and 0-for-2 from the line, with a game-high nine assists, three steals, three rebounds, a block, and a plus-9 rating with his 13 points.
“Bonus” non-five star player who would have placed in the top five with more minutes
James Johnson (MIA) 10.0
Johnson only played 18 minutes, but made a case for more despite his five personal fouls and four turnovers. He collected eight assists in his limited time on the floor, scoring 11 points on five-of-nine shooting with a steal, four rebounds (two on each end), and a Heat-high plus-6 rating.
For more on the Magic, head over to Orlando Pinstriped Post.
Miami gets a break until the home-opener on Saturday night against the Indiana Pacers. Tune in, and keep checking back here for all the latest in Miami Heat news.