For a moment in the fourth quarter Monday night, it got loud enough inside AmericanAirlines Arena that it felt like the Heat and Spurs were playing each other in the NBA Finals again.
Only it wasn’t Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen and Chris Bosh leading a 97-94 come-from-behind win against Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker in Game 7.
It was Tyler Johnson, James Ennis, Keith Benson and rookies Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow outscoring San Antonio’s Jonathon Simmons, Matt Bonner, Deshaun Thomas, Youssou Ndoye and Ray McCallum in the final stretch of a 26-10 fourth quarter won by the Heat in preseason game No. 3.
“Those young guys will keep you in your seats,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It was great to see. They just brought a hurricane of energy in those last six minutes.”
As for the Heat’s starting unit, still minus center Hassan Whiteside (strained right calf), it didn’t have a stellar night against the Spurs’ new vaunted lineup with LaMarcus Aldridge.
The 6-11, 240-pound Aldridge, who signed a four-year, $80 million deal in the offseason to leave Portland and join Duncan in San Antonio’s frontcourt, led the Spurs with 17 points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes.
Duncan, meanwhile, had 14 points on a 7-of-7 shooting night and grabbed six boards. By the time Aldridge and most of the Spurs starting unit exited with about three minutes left in the third quarter, San Antonio had a 81-69 lead.
Bosh and Goran Dragic, who are focused this preseason on becoming one of the best pick-and-pop tandems in the NBA, each finished 2 of 7 from the field for a combined 14 points. The Heat was minus-15 with both on the court in 23-plus minutes.
Wade led the Heat’s starting unit with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including a pair of three-pointers in 21 minutes. Luol Deng had 11 points in 24 minutes.
“I told [Bosh] before the game I was happy we were playing the Spurs because they're going to challenge you no matter who is in the lineup," he said. "The way that their ball moves it's good for you as you're trying to get your defensive system. This team challenges you in so many different ways. So it's good.”
“I know we were down double-digits, but we saw some good things,” Spoelstra said of his first unit. “We just missed a lot of shots, and it was just playing catch-up from there. We do have to clean up some things defensively, protect the paint better, not give up those back cuts, paint touches. But there was some veteran collaboration. We’ll continue to get organized. Even as we were down 10 points, we saw improvement from those first couple games. The pace was better. The score was not indicative of that. But the pace was better.”
With the Heat set to face the Magic in Orlando on Tuesday in its first back-to-back games of the preseason, Spoelstra gave Mario Chalmers, Josh McRoberts and Amar’e Stoudemire a night off to rest knee soreness. Chalmers said afterward he expects to be out a few days to make sure he gets right.
Stoudemire, who turns 33 on Nov. 16 and has a history of knee injuries, has been kept out of practice the past few days and was in the pool getting a workout pregame, Spoelstra said. Neither he nor McRoberts are expected to travel to Orlando.
“Both of them made it through camp without missing a day and then the practices after that,” Spoelstra said. “We decided to slow that process down and see big picture. But I anticipate both will practice [later this week] and play this weekend.”
▪ Whiteside told reporters in the locker room pregame he’s looking to return to practice in a non-limited role by the weekend and hopes to play in his first preseason game next week.
▪ Wade said he’s not going to play Tuesday night against the Magic in Orlando and doesn’t plan to play in any back-to-backs in the preseason.