After slow starts in each of the Miami Heat’s first three preseason games, coach Erik Spoelstra decided to mix things up. Goran Dragic got the night off and Josh Richardson took his place while Kelly Olynyk started in place of the struggling James Johnson.
The Heat played much better in the first half as a result, but struggled mightily in the second half — especially from deep — and the Orlando Magic took advantage to edge the Heat 93-90 in a game dominated by scoring runs from both teams.
Dion Waiters bounced back from a disappointing start to the preseason with 17 points on 5-9 shooting and scored 13 in the first half alone, but also committed five turnovers. Miami’s best player was Josh Richardson, who enjoyed a strong showing in the second quarter and closed with a team-leading 19 points. Hassan Whiteside also played well, showing plenty of range in his jumper to end up with 17 points and 15 rebounds.
Miami’s most impressive stretch of the game was during a 18-1 run in the second quarter, featung 10 points from Richardson in the first four minutes of the quarter. The Heat led by as much as 11 but Orlando responded with eight straight points, eventually tying the game at 46-46 with 2:30 left on a 15-4 run.
The Heat started third quarter strong with a 10-0 run and eventually increased their lead to 16 at 73-57 but Aaron Gordon kept the Magic close and the home team eventually ended the quarter on a 11-2 run to cut the deficit to seven points.
Miami went cold to start the fourth quarter and the Magic would race ahead to a 77-75 lead with eight minutes left. Richardson tied the game with an emphatic dunk while getting hit in the face but Spoelstra soon emptied the bench midway through the quarter. Bam Adebayo had his moments in the final minutes of the game as the Heat’s training camp invitees had several chances to steal the game, but Arron Afflalo scored eight straight points in crunch time to help seal the win.
While it’s still way to early to properly judge this team, several issues remain. They shot the ball well from beyond the arc in the first half, going 9-19 but missed all 13 attempts in the second half with Wayne Ellington going ice cold. The Heat continue to struggle with their overall shooting, finishing 36.4% from the field for the game and 31% in the second half.
Olynyk had an up-and-down game in his first start, doing a lot of little things to help his team with his versatility but also sometimes tried to do too much and had four turnovers with just two points on 1-7 shooting. Justise Winslow had just one point to his name in 21 minutes of action. James Johnson looked much more comfortable coming off the bench, but Spoelstra may prefer to try to make it work with him in the starting five.
Miami next hosts the Charlotte Hornets at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Monday, October 9 at 7:30pm.