With a bunch of new faces on the roster, the Heat set out to establish a new identity this preseason. It’s hard to say it hasn’t.
“We really wanted to create a pace that was appropriate for this team,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I’ve gone into other seasons where I really want to force the tempo, and it just didn’t play out that way. This group came into camp in shape. We have some fast guys; guys whose strength is to play quicker.
“A lot of players say they may want to play fast, but then when you actually have to practice fast, condition and do all that extra running, then they realize that maybe a half-court game might be better suited for them. This group has enjoyed it.”
Playing with the same need for speed they have all preseason, the Heat wrapped up the exhibition season Friday night at AmericanAirlines Arena with a 113-110 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
But speed was a factor once again when the starting unit and key rotation players were in and establishing a 10-point lead.
Point guard Goran Dragic, playing with fresh legs having sat out Thursday night in Charlotte, roared like a Ferrari up and down the court most of the night, finishing with 17 points, five rebounds and seven assists in 26 minutes. He was 7 of 8 from the free-throw line.
The Heat, which came in with the second-worst free-throw percentage in the league (67.4 percent), finished 31 of 49 from the line (63.3 percent). The 49 attempts were 20 more than the previous preseason high.
Miami led 62-54 at the half. The Heat battled foul trouble early, drawing eight fouls — including two each on Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson and Hassan Whiteside — before eight minutes had elapsed in the game.
Whiteside finished with 15 points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes. Winslow, playing for the first time in a week because of back soreness, had five points and four rebounds in 17 minutes.
Luke Babbitt, who missed the Heat’s four previous preseason games recovering from a tight groin, started and finished with eight points (2 of 6 from three-point range) and one rebound in 21 minutes.
The Heat, which came in averaging 29 three-pointers a game and put up a preseason-high 41 against the Hornets on Thursday, finished 5 of 20 from beyond the arc Friday.
The focus was more geared toward attacking the basket. Miami had 30 points in the paint at the half and finished with 44 in the game. The Heat came in averaging 46.9 points in the paint, fourth-highest in the league.
“We’re an aggressive, attacking team,” Spoelstra said before the game. “That’s ultimately what we want. We have the type of players that can get those type of attacks. It is a symbiotic relationship with our spacing.
“I have no problem with us shooting 40 threes if they’re open threes and the right threes. And they were last night. We just missed a lot of them.”
Rodney McGruder, in contention for the Heat’s final roster spot, left the game 27 seconds into the second half with a jammed left middle finger.
McGruder, who once again entered the game for the Heat before Beno Udrih and Briante Weber did, replacing starter Wayne Ellington at shooting guard with 3:14 left in the opening quarter, finished with 3 points (1-of-3 shooting) and one rebound in nearly 14 minutes. He led the Heat with 19 points Thursday.
Udrih and Weber both entered the game late in the third quarter. Udrih finished with six points and two assists in 15 minutes. Weber had three points and four rebounds in 13 minutes minutes.
Miami will begin making its first roster trims on Saturday — likely directly assigning players like Okaro White, Luis Montero and Vashil Fernandez to their Development League team in Sioux Falls.
▪ The woman who sang the national anthem before Friday’s game did so while kneeling at midcourt, and opening her jacket to show a shirt with the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” The singer was identified by the team as Denasia Lawrence.
“We were unaware of it ahead of time,” a Heat spokesman said.
The NBA has asked its players and coaches to stand during the anthem. Heat players and coaches, as they have at all preseason home games, locked arms during the anthem. The team has been united in its approach to be respectful of the flag while still standing against social injustice.