So how about you head to Miami to play your fifth game in seven days, your third game in four days and the second of a back-to-back set after facing the Magic in Orlando the night before.
With that taken into consideration, some clarity about the Heat’s rotation emerged from the pivotal win the Pistons.
1. The contributions of Luke Babbitt and Rodney McGruder to last season’s 30-11 finish weren’t an accident.
Babbitt’s early 3-point baskets got the Heat into a 3-point rhythm as the team went 12 of 29 (41%) from the perimeter. McGruder’s quiet +9 rating showed his value as a “glue guy,” who contributes winning plays in whatever role he’s asked to perform. Coach Erik Spoelstra knows what he’ll get when the two are on the court.
2. Justise Winslow scores better against 2nd-tier defenders than elite starters.
Winslow demonstrated the reason Miami drafted him with his explosiveness and athletic ability to make a statement dunk on a gamble that paid off this time.
Winslow scored 17, 17, 2, 13 points in his last four games, where in his one single-digit outing the bigger and stronger Philadelphia 76ers frontcourt held him without a field goal. At 21 years-old, time is on his side to sharpen his skill set against the better NBA defenders. His much improved 3-point percentage tells us Justise, like Wayne Ellington, is willing to put in the thousands and thousands of practice shots behind the scenes to perfect his craft, before stepping on the court as a professional.
3. Winslow and Kelly made quite a pair, reminding us of the Brothers Johnson from last season.
Kelly Olynyk was +20 on the court, and Winslow +18. Combined they went 11-20 from the field, 4-8 from the arc, for 30 points. The highlights below show a few nifty plays between them, which could be developed even further going forward.
Olynyk’s finesse style compliments Winslow’s athletic speed and strength to give a winning combination on the court for the pair.
4. Josh Richardson at shooting guard and James Johnson at power forward reinforced each other’s strengths to the team’s benefit.
Together they went 13 of 20 (65%) with an assortment of baskets that kept defenses guessing and honest, as their shotchart from last night’s game shows.
The mid-range basket isn’t the most efficient, but it’s needed to suck in defenders from the perimeter and restricted area, and give teammates better looks at the basket. Their 65% FGM% wasn’t shabby either.
5. Ability to identity Miami’s winning edge during the game counts more than the starting five.
Detroit ran out to a 14-5 lead in the first 3 minutes, but were outscored 100-82 after that. Blake Griffin scored 31 points and Andre Drummond had 22 points with 18 rebounds to lead both teams. The Heat’s starters played their counterparts to a draw, and gave Miami’s four rotation men a chance to outscore Detroit’s bench unit by 10 points. During the game the distinction between starting and rotation players for the Heat became meaningless.
The Heat were more aggressive at the rim this time around, compared to the previous game in Detroit, when the Miami had only 5 points from the free throw line, versus the Piston’s 14. Last night Miami got 19 points off of 28 free throw attempts, and Detroit made 15 of their 21. Dwyane Wade lead the charge with 9 freebies, followed by Hassan Whiteside’s 5, Goran Dragic’s 4 and James Johnson’s 4. Coincidentally, in the last two contests between the teams, the Pistons and Heat had the identical number of field goals: 44 previously, and 37 last night.