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Spurs edge Heat in preseason debut, 104-100

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Hassan Whiteside scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in an encouraging opener.

NBA: Preseason-Miami Heat at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe Hassan Whiteside will bounce back from his abysmal 2018 playoff performance this year.

That was one encouraging sign from the Miami Heat’s preseason debut against the San Antonio Spurs Sunday evening. The Heat trailed for nearly the entire second half in a 104-100 decision. As with most exhibition games, coaches went deep into their rosters — we even saw Udonis Haslem play in the third quarter.

Whiteside scored 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field and grabbed 13 rebounds in 23 minutes. He made a corner 3-pointer in the third quarter in perhaps his most surprising move. In the opening minutes of the game, Whiteside led a fast break for a finger-roll layup.

Of course, Whiteside should not lead many fast breaks when the games start to count. But if he can hit that corner 3, Miami could open up their offensive spacing much better than they did last year. Erik Spoelstra kept Whiteside on the bench last season because the Heat were 6.1 points per 100 possessions better without him on the court. If Whiteside’s shooting changes those numbers, the Heat big man could play more

Sunday also marked the last opening preseason game for Dwyane Wade, who scored 10 points in 17 minutes and came in as a reserve. (Wayne Ellington and Josh Richardson were out, so Spoelstra started Rodney McGruder.) Wade showed what he can still offer this Heat team, even in his 16th season: scoring and passing.

Wade directed the Heat offense while he was in the game; it may have partly been due to Richardson and James Johnson’s absence. Wade can still score in bunches when the Heat need him to, but he cannot have too much on his shoulders.

It was strange to see Miami playing their first preseason game with the Jimmy Butler saga still unresolved. The Heat need a star to carry the offensive load, and Sunday’s opener displayed the limits of Miami’s no-star approach. Similar to many of the dreary nights of last season, the Heat suffered through a disappointing third quarter in which the opposing team made a run and Miami couldn’t respond.

Because of Miami’s injuries and the nature of preseason play, Derrick Jones Jr. opened the game at power forward. Jarnell Stokes, a camp invitee who previously played for Miami during the 2015-16 season, even played nine minutes and had a nice put-back against four Spurs defenders.

Duncan Robinson, the Heat’s summer league 3-point shooting standout, made three 3-pointers and grabbed five rebounds in his first dose of NBA action. His shooting could earn him minutes on this team.

The Heat will visit the Charlotte Hornets Tuesday at 7 p.m. for their second preseason game.