Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra loves to use the word “process.” That’s what this exhibition season will be as the Heat attempts to establish roles and build continuity.
Miami took another step in that process in Wednesday night’s 100-97 loss to the Orlando Magic at the KFC Yum! Center. Chris Bosh, working his way back from blood clots in his lungs that sidelined him for the final 30 games last season, played an at All-Star level Wednesday night.
Bosh finished with 18 points and 3 rebounds in 24 minutes. The Miami starters didn’t play in the fourth quarter, which took an interesting turn late. Former Heat point guard Shabazz Napier, who didn’t play until the final minutes, made the winning three-pointer for Orlando with 3.5 seconds left.
When the buzzer sounded, some members of the Heat gave Napier a congratulatory hug.
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“We don’t want overtime in the preseason,” Miami star guard Dwyane Wade said. “A lot of us have a great relationship with Shabazz. We understand it’s a business.”
Back to Bosh.
He was the man who (almost) couldn’t miss in the first half. Bosh made his first four shots and first six free throws. The only time he failed to convert was a leaner in the lane in the half’s final seconds. Overall, he was 5 of 7 from the field (2 of 3 from three-point range).
Bosh scored four points during the Heat’s 11-0 run to start the game. This followed up on Bosh’s 14-point, 7-rebound effort in Sunday’s 90-77 loss to the Charlotte Hornets.
“Chris is back to playing great,” Wade said. “We had some great minutes with the first team. Chris is the focal point of our offense. He moves the ball. It helps us.”
Spoelstra and the Miami organization must be relieved to see this. The Heat will need Bosh at optimal level to be an Eastern Conference contender. Bosh was the frontcourt offense Wednesday night as center Hassan Whiteside missed his second exhibition game with a calf injury. In Whiteside’s place, veteran Udonis Haslem started.
For some of us, it felt good to see him step up and make that shot. It was in preseason so we could feel good about it. If it were the regular season, we would have been [ticked].
Assuming the starting lineup avoids the injury bug that contributed to missing out on last season’s playoffs, the Heat looks like a legitimate contender.
The 2015-16 probable lineup of Bosh, Wade, Goran Dragic, Whiteside and Luol Deng appears formidable — especially if Whiteside continues to expand his game. Miami should also be deep with the additions of Amar’e Stoudemire, Gerald Green and top draft choice Justise Winslow, plus the return of a healthy Josh McRoberts.
“We’re continuing to learn,” said Wade, who played with a jammed thumb. “We have a lot of new guys playing together. Preseason is about learning.”
Dragic, who finished with 12 points and 5 assists Wednesday, and Bosh never got a chance to play together last season (Bosh was hospitalized with the blood clots the same day Dragic was acquired). That’s why the minutes they are on the floor together in the exhibition games have value. The starting unit made its first four shots to take that 11-0 first-quarter lead.
Miami’s bench could have a significant impact. Free-agent signee Stoudemire scored 8 points in 18 minutes. While playing with the reserves, the Heat ran the offense through the former All-Star. Stoudemire also confronted the Magic’s Mario Hezonja after a foul and was whistled for a technical.
Another key addition is Winslow. In 21 minutes, he scored 5 points on 2-of-3 shooting. In the second quarter, he got some playing time with Wade, Bosh and Dragic. He still appeared to be a work in progress offensively but did make a nice defensive play to keep Orlando’s Victor Oladipo from attempting a shot on a drive.
“I felt good,” Winslow said. “The biggest thing for me is trying to be in the right spots defensively and just talking. I don’t want to be the guy out there who’s just quiet.”
Green, who was hampered early by foul trouble, came alive late with all 11 of his points in the fourth quarter. Haslem did not play after halftime; Chris Andersen started at center in the second half.
“We got off to a great start and were able to move the ball without fouling,” Spoelstra said. “The second unit struggled in the second half but they played their best basketball in the fourth quarter.”
The end got exciting when Napier made that three-pointer.
“For some of us, it felt good to see him step up and make that shot,” Wade said. “It was in preseason so we could feel good about it. If it were the regular season, we would have been [ticked].”