The Miami Heat’s starting lineup asked coach Erik Spoelstra for another chance to impress after a so-so start to the preseason in their victory against the Atlanta Hawks. After Thursday’s listless performance in a 108-88 loss against the Brooklyn Nets, Spoelstra may want to reconsider shuffling the lineup in time for Saturday’s road game against the Orlando Magic.
Once again, Dion Waiters and James Johnson struggled mightily with just two points each and there was little cohesion among the starting 5. Hassan Whiteside was one of the team’s lone bright spots with 19 point and nine rebounds, but by the time the Heat reserves got into the game it already seemed like they would be playing catch-up basketball the rest of the night. Goran Dragic had 12 points but zero assists and failed to get his team organized.
Justise Winslow had some nice moments off the bench, showcasing his ability to get to the rim and making plays but struggled to finish at the rim. Though he was able to get to the line, he only went 4-9 from the charity stripe. Tyler Johnson was the Heat’s best player along with Whiteside, finishing with 21 points on a variety of silky mid-range jumpers and went 8-8 from the free throw line and even grabbed nine rebounds. It’s telling that Josh Richardson led the team with just four assists, as there was little ball movement and easy buckets as a result.
Yes, it’s only preseason and for now it’s very early into the process but just four preseason games remain and the regular season is right around the corner so there is little time to figure things out. The rust is apparent, with plenty of unforced turnovers and flat shooting. The team shot a ghastly 38.6% from the field, 14.8% from the 3-point line and 62.5% from the free throw line. That’s not going to win many games, preseason or regular season. On the other end of the floor, their defense made the Nets look like a playoff team so there’s much to do to correct course ahead of the regular season opener.
Knowing the Heat and Spoelstra, however, perhaps this game will ignite a fire underneath them to get it together and work harder to improve. Only time will tell if this is a sign of things to come or just a stepping stone to improving on last season.