Good thing the Miami Heat returns 14 players from last season’s roster because there hasn’t been a chance to build continuity yet.
Injuries have followed the Heat (0-3) around in the preseason, and that continued in a 121-114 loss to the Washington Wizards on Friday at Capital One Arena. Miami was without eight players due to various injuries, leaving 12 available for coach Erik Spoelstra to turn to.
The list of injuries included Josh Richardson (left thigh contusion), Dion Waiters (left ankle surgery), Marcus Lee (right knee injury), Derrick Jones Jr. (bruised right shoulder), James Johnson (sports hernia surgery), Bam Adebayo (right AC joint sprain), Tyler Johnson (migraine) and Wayne Ellington (left ankle soreness).
Those injuries gave others an opportunity to handle the ball and shoot more than usual. Justise Winslow and Rodney McGruder took advantage, as Winslow finished with 17 points and four rebounds and McGruder continued his strong preseason with 15 points, five rebounds and three assists.
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“This is the guy that we’ve been accustomed to seeing really the last three months of last season,” Spoelstra said of Winslow. “But this is how he’s been in training camp. He’s been a locomotive on the run, but he’s been making solid decisions so he’s not just running people over. He’s also made some great plays to open teammates. He has very good vision, he’s gaining a better feel as he’s aggressive.”
Dwyane Wade also turned in his best performance of the preseason with 10 points on 4 of 8 shooting. He scored all of his points in the first quarter and did not play in the second half.
Center Hassan Whiteside fell just short of his third consecutive preseason double-double, finishing with 10 points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes Friday.
Among the Heat newcomers, undrafted rookie Yante Maten stood out. Maten, who is on a two-way contract, recorded 17 points and seven rebounds.
Briante Weber, who is competing for the Heat’s final roster spot, posted a stat line of 10 points, six assists and six steals.
“I love the kid. I always have,” Spoelstra said of Weber. “He’s a competitor. I love his spirit and he’s gotten better. He plays different, I think, when he’s in our uniform because we value the things that he does and he’ll continue to get better. I think he’s a very good shooter when he’s open. I think he should be knocking those down on the catch. But he’s such a giving, sharing player that wants to help other people get shots.”
While wins and losses don’t matter in the preseason, the third quarter has been an issue for the Heat. Miami has been outscored 94-63 in the period through three games.
Friday’s loss marked the end of the Heat’s three-game preseason-opening trip. The Heat returns home to play its final three preseason games at AmericanAirlines Arena, starting Monday against the Orlando Magic.
* Spoelstra said the Heat decided to hold out Richardson because “he had a big work day yesterday. And there was still a little bit of tightness today. I think he was close. If it was a regular season game, maybe it would have been different. But we’re going to be smart about it. Hopefully he can practice Sunday and then go from there.”