The Miami Heat beat to the Washington Wizards 117-115 in its next-to-last preseason game Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena – minus starters Hassan Whiteside, Dion Waiters and Goran Dragic, who were all given the night off to rest.
So what did we learn?
1. Tyler Johnson and James Johnson remain a very good combination for the Heat. Coach Erik Spoelstra still has wiggle room and time to decide what the Heat’s best starting lineup is. But make no mistake the same Johnson and Johnson connection off the bench that was so lethal last season is in midseason form and it’s going to be hard for Miami’s coach to split that tandem up.
The Heat’s dynamic bench duo looked good in Monday’s win over Charlotte and again for 18 minutes and 17 seconds together Wednesday. Tyler, who has had a stellar preseason shoting 55.8 percent from the field and is 7-of-14 from three-point range, had 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting Wednesday to go with three rebounds and three assists. JJ, who struggled in both of his preseason starts, still hasn’t made a three-pointer this preseason (0-for-15). But he finished with 12 points (5-of-11 shooting), six rebounds, four assists, a block and a steal Wednesday. It’s not by accident he’s looked his best playing by Tyler’s side.
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“10,000 hours, 10,000 reps however you want to say it. They’ve just spent so much time working on stuff together,” Spoelstra said. “bably the first three or four months of the season last year we weren’t really installing offense we were just trying to get guys chemistry and coherence together. We spend a lot of time working certain guys together. They would do it in practice but spent time before practice and after practice putting in all those extra reps just to make sure they were on the same page. It doesn’t happen by accident. And now they make it look rather simple. But it’s not.”
JJ, 30, said there are no scripted plays between him and Tyler. It’s reading what the defense gives him and reacting.
“Every play that we run is set for everyone to try to score,” James said. “If he can get the backdoor he takes it. If he can get the handoff, then we’ll take that. I’ll roll. If he doesn’t have it, he gets off it, and then we move onto the second side. It’s all a team effort. It’s all the guys guys being spaced out on the floor and allowing us to have that open space.”
James said he and Tyler have worked all summer on creating new wrinkles to their game.
“Last year is last year. I know a lot of teams are going to scout that,” James said. “We break down film and see how we dissect the defense.”
▪ The Heat’s starting unit of Kelly Olynyk, Okaro White, Rodney McGruder, Josh Richardson and Wayne Ellington fell behind early to the Wizards. But the Heat’s potential second unit once the regular season begins – the Johnsons, Olynyk, Richardson and Justise Winslow – went on a 14-5 run midway through the second quarter to trim Washington's lead to 34-33. As soon as the Johnsons, Olynyk and Richardson went to the bench, Washington went on 10-0 run.
2. Bam Adebayo looked comfortable. The Heat’s first round pick got thrown into the rotation in the first half Monday and looked lost. Wednesday, Spoelstra turned to him with 8:05 left in the first half and Adebayo responded with his best minutes of the preseason.
He scored a pair of tough baskets in the paint, drawing a foul on one instance against Wizards starting center Marcin Gortat and then threw down an alley-oop dunk on a feed from Rodney McGruder.
“He was a thousand times better in the second quarter,” Spoelstra said. “He knew it was coming. He knew he was going to play. I was going to try and trick him somehow just to keep him off balance, but he was so ready and you see the athleticism, the toughness, the multiple efforts he brings. True vertical threat to your pick-and-roll game. Defensively, he can cover a lot of ground. It was good to see him respond.”
Adebayo, 20, returned in the second half and didn’t skip a beat, finishing with a team-high 15 points and two rebounds in 24 minutes. In his first four preseason games (26 minutes total), Adebayo was 1-of-10 from the field, 7-of-16 from the free thrown line for nine points.
“He’s getting better,” Spoelstra said. “He’s in camp [Juwan] Howard every single day. That’s not an easy classroom and drill session on the court every day. But he wants it.”
3. Winslow’s shot continues to look rusty. The Heat’s 2015 first round pick, who is coming off season-ending shoulder surgery, is still struggling with his shot this preseason. He was 1-of-7 from the field Wednesday for six points and is now 8-of-25 (32 percent) for the preseason. Even at the free throw line Winslow is struggling. He was 4-of-7 Wednesday and is 9-of-20 from the stripe for the preseason.
But Winslow did contribute in other ways Wednesday. He led the Heat with nine assists (compared to four turnovers) and tied for the team lead with seven rebounds.
“I felt good,” Winslow said. “The shots didn’t fall, but I found a way to get in rhythm, enjoying my teammates knocking down shots. Just trying to play-make out there and have fun.”
Ultimately, Spoelstra will take that until the shots start falling. So ultimately will Winslow.
“I’m just playing,” Winslow said. “I’m going to take my shots when they are there. I am just going to try to get in the lane and make plays. The mentality is just be myself and try to find a little bit more rhythm and flow as each game goes on.”