It’s just the preseason. But so far, so good for the Heat.
The Heat improved to 3-0 this preseason with a dominant 120-87 win over the Hawks on Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Miami has outscored its opponents by a combined score of 335-270 during the preseason this year.
Next up for the Heat is a Thursday game against the Magic in Orlando before returning home to finish off its five-game preseason against the Rockets on Friday.
Here are five takeaways from Miami’s preseason win over Atlanta ...
Rookie guard Tyler Herro got his second consecutive preseason start, and he didn’t disappoint.
Herro scored the Heat’s first 14 points of the game, while shooting 5-of-5 from the field and 4 of 4 on threes. He made his first six shots of the game.
The 19-year-old finished with a team-high 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field and 5-of-7 shooting on threes.
If this continues, Herro could end up as a fixture in Miami’s regular-season starting lineup. He’s averaging 16.3 points on 54.5 percent shooting from field and 53.3 percent shooting on threes over the Heat’s first three preseason games.
“It’s not a surprise to anybody around here,” Heat wing Jimmy Butler said, “because he works incredibly hard and he’s confident each and every day that he steps into the arena. He knows what he’s capable of. He goes out there and he shines, and he’s going to continue to do it.”
Also, Herro apparently enjoys the rims at AmericanAirlines Arena, as he’s averaging 20.5 points on 59.3 percent shooting from the field and 58.3 percent on threes in the Heat’s two home preseason games.
Herro’s shooting ability is not a surprise, but his passing and ball-handling have been impressive. He has also averaged 4.7 rebounds in the preseason.
“I think I contribute to our floor spacing,” Herro said. “I can handle the ball a little bit, make plays for others and make everyone better.”
It was another quiet night — statistically — for the Heat’s new leading man, Jimmy Butler.
After scoring 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting in his preseason debut with the Heat, Butler sat out the team’s second preseason game.
But Butler, a four-time All-Star, was back on the court for Monday’s matchup against the Hawks. He finished with seven points on 3-of-7 shooting, six rebounds and four assists in 26 minutes, and did not score his first points until there was 4:25 remaining in the first half.
Butler has not been as aggressive as usual this preseason, almost like he’s actively letting others take the shots to build his teammates’ confidence. Don’t worry, though, there will be plenty of nights this season when Butler is the Heat’s leading scorer.
“It’s all about building confidence right now,” Butler said. “Guys are so comfortable with their game, trying to figure out where everybody is going to be at on the floor. We still got a couple more of these left, a couple more practices and then it gets real.”
The athleticism and energy provided by center Bam Adebayo and forward Derrick Jones Jr. was on display Monday.
Adebayo turned in his best performance of the preseason, finishing with 15 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocks in 26 minutes.
Adebayo’s effort is relentless. Whether it’s on the boards, on the defensive end or just in transition, he’s constantly putting pressure on the opponent with his ability to run the court and make multiple efforts.
“He’s key for us. He’s a shot-maker, he creates for others so easily,” Butler said of Adebayo. “Obviously, the blocking shots, rebounding and he just flies up and down the floor. He’s constantly creating mismatches. To tell you the truth, he’s the heart of this team. He’s the motor, he’s everything to us.”
Jones also had his best night of the preseason, finishing with 14 points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes.
There were the usual high-flying dunks for Jones, but there were also points created off the dribble like the and-1 layup he dribbled into in the second quarter. Making plays for himself and others off the dribble is the next step for Jones, who relied on offensive rebounds and passes from others to score most of his points last season.
Jones limped to the locker room in the fourth quarter and did not return to the game after banging knees with Hawks forward John Collins. In the locker room after the game, Jones said he was fine.
“He’s playing with such energy and force and everything,”coach Erik Spoelstra said of Jones. “There are going to be collisions. You can’t protect every part of your body. ... But for a guy of his build, he really does play with force and you feel his energy. He has done that now for three straight games. I’ve seen it in practice sessions, as well, when no one else is watching. He’s changing the energy while he’s out there.”
Justise Winslow is getting his wish ... so far. The Heat is using him as a starting point guard this preseason.
On Monday, Winslow finished with nine points on 4-of-14 shooting, four rebounds and five assists.
He has recorded eight assists to seven turnovers in the two preseason games he has played in.
Improving the assist-to-turnover ratio is a goal for Winslow this season. He totaled 282 assists to 142 turnovers last season for a ratio of 1.99. Getting that number closer to three seems like a solid target for Winslow, considering point guards like Mike Conley, Patrick Beverley and Kyle Lowry all finished with assist-to-turnover ratios a little better than three last season.
The Heat played shorthanded Monday, so don’t read too much into the rotation used against the Hawks.
Guard Dion Waiters (personal reasons), center Kelly Olynyk (right knee bruise), and forwards James Johnson (conditioning) and Udonis Haslem (sprained left wrist) did not play.
With those options unavailable, the Heat started Winslow, Herro, Butler, Adebayo and Meyers Leonard. The first three used off the bench were Jones, Goran Dragic and Duncan Robinson. This was the eight-man rotation the Heat used in the first half.
The ninth player used Monday was Kendrick Nunn, who entered the game with 2:07 remaining in the third quarter. Nunn was sharp, with 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting on threes in 14 minutes.
Waiters and Olynyk are expected to be in Miami’s rotation when they return, and Johnson is also going to compete for minutes.
“You want the head coach to have to make some tough decisions,” Spoelstra said of the Heat’s rotation. “I don’t know which way I’m going for opening night, and I don’t know if we’ll have a set lineup. We don’t even have our whole full complement available. So we’ll keep on looking at some things.”
There is one notable observation that can be made about the Heat’s rotation through the first three preseason games, though. The conversation regarding who will start at point guard between Dragic and Winslow looks to be clearly trending in Winslow’s direction so far. Winslow has started in each of the two preseason games he has been available for, and Dragic has played off the bench in each of the two preseason games he has been available for.