After starting the preseason with three consecutive losses and plenty of injuries, there was finally some good news for the Miami Heat.
Two pieces of the Heat’s young core, Josh Richardson and Bam Adebayo, returned from injury to contribute in a 90-89 win over the Orlando Magic on Monday at AmericanAirlines Arena. It marked the first of Miami’s three-game homestand to close the preseason.
Miami led by as many as 19 points, but held off Orlando’s second-half rally behind nine fourth-quarter points from Rodney McGruder. The Heat (1-3 in the preseason) and Magic will face off next week to open the regular season on Oct. 17 in Orlando.
Richardson started in his return alongside Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow, Kelly Olynyk and Hassan Whiteside, and finished with five points, three rebounds and two assists in 26 minutes. The 25-year-old missed the first three preseason games with a left thigh contusion.
“It was good just to get him back out there,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of Richardson. “He was in a better rhythm that I anticipated. He was aggressive in certain spots and defensively he was moving very well. So it was good to get him those minutes.”
Adebayo’s return from a right AC joint sprain was a surprise, as Spoelstra said he was unlikely to play less than two hours before tipoff. But the second-year big man was able to log his first minutes of the preseason Monday, recording six points and five rebounds in 24 minutes.
“He just outwilled [athletic trainer Jay Sabol]. He had to pass a bunch of tests and he did,” Spoelstra said of Adebayo with a smile. “But he went through a decent amount of workouts the last three days, and the extra day he was able to go through everything non-contact and some of the half contact and then today he went through the full shootaround. Then he passed his tests and bullied Jay into the decision. I planned on playing him 12 to 15 minutes, but then he ended up bullying me.”
Along with the return of Richardson and Adebayo, the Heat’s defense was another positive. Miami limited Orlando to 89 points on 37.8 percent shooting and forced 17 turnovers, after allowing an average of 115.7 points over the first three preseason games.
McGruder continued his impressive preseason with a team-high 19 points to go with eight rebounds and five assists against the Magic.
It’s been a preseason to forget for Tyler Johnson, though. He finished Monday’s win with four points on 1-of-10 shooting, and is now shooting 18.5 percent (5-of-27) from the field in four preseason games.
Next up for the Heat is a Wednesday matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans at AmericanAirlines Arena, the fifth of Miami’s six preseason games.