Thursday’s preseason game felt different for the Heat.
The starters played more minutes, and coach Erik Spoelstra stuck with a 10-man rotation for most of the game. This seemed like the preseason “dress rehearsal” for the Heat.
And it went well, with the Heat defeating the Magic 107-98 at Amway Center to move to 4-0 this preseason.
Here are five takeaways from Miami’s preseason win over Orlando ...
This looked like the preseason dress rehearsal for the Heat, and here’s how the rotation played out.
The Heat started Justise Winslow, Jimmy Butler, Duncan Robinson, Meyers Leonard and Bam Adebayo against the Magic. Winslow, Butler, Leonard and Adebayo look to be on track to start the Oct. 23 regular-season opener, as they’ve each started in every preseason game they’ve been available for so far.
But who will complete that starting lineup? Robinson has started in three of the four preseason games, and it’s notable that he started in what looked to be the Heat’s preseason dress rehearsal. But there’s also rookie guard Tyler Herro, who has made two preseason starts. And there’s also guard Dion Waiters, who has not started yet this preseason but has made clear he wants a starting role.
The first five guys used off the bench against the Magic were (in order): Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Derrick Jones Jr., Kelly Olynyk and Herro.
Entering Thursday’s game, Spoelstra said the first 10 players used in Orlando were the ones he wanted to take a closer look at. That 10-player list was Winslow, Butler, Robinson, Leonard, Adebayo, Dragic, Waiters, Jones, Olynyk and Herro.
“I wanted to take a look at these guys as much as possible,” Spoelstra said. “So, I was open to where that can go from there.”
Forward James Johnson (conditioning) and Udonis Haslem (sprained left wrist) were the only two Heat players who weren’t available in Orlando. Johnson and Haslem didn’t travel with the team and remained in Miami.
Butler, the scorer, made an appearance in Orlando after three preseason games of playing the role of facilitator.
The Heat’s new leading man turned in a 10-point first half on 5-of-6 shooting Thursday. But also did a little bit of everything else, recording four rebounds and four assists over the first two quarters.
Butler ended the night with 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting, six rebounds and six assists. Some of his points came on nice passes from Winslow, who finished with 12 assists and just three turnovers.
“I got pissed off and it kind of hit a little switch,” Butler said of what got him going offensively. “But some of my teammates were like, ‘How about you do what you’re supposed to do tonight, score some points finally?’ So I did that.”
What angered Butler?
“Don’t worry about all of that, man. Just know that somebody pissed me off,” Butler said. “Something happened and we went from there.”
Entering the game, Butler was averaging just 8.5 points on 7.5 shot attempts this preseason.
“We all know why he’s here,” Spoelstra said. “He’s going to be the No. 1 option for us and create a lot of offense for us. Look, it’s preseason. I loved his approach through training camp and so far through preseason. I just think it’s unusual for a star player to care so much about the other guys and making sure they get confident and comfortable. And young guys, he wants them to play well and get there opportunities.”
Olynyk made his preseason debut Thursday. Now, the question is: When will Olynyk be ready for his normal allotment of minutes?
Olynyk missed training camp and the Heat’s first three preseason games due to a bone bruise on his right knee — an injury sustained playing for Team Canada in August. But the 28-year-old Olynyk played for the first time this preseason in Orlando, finishing with 14 points and one rebound in 15 minutes.
“Probably a little better than I figured. It felt really good,” Olynyk said when asked how his first game action went. “I didn’t feel anything at all. It was a really good sign. Obviously, you have to get your wind up and game legs and all that kind of stuff. I feel like I’m on a great track.”
As expected, Olynyk logged limited minutes in his first game action of the preseason. The next step for Olynyk is to add to his workload over the next week, with the regular-season opener looming, and hope that his knee responds positively.
“My body feels good, I’m moving well,” Olynyk said prior to Thursday’s game. “It gets a little sore if I work on it for an extended period, so that’s just the stuff we’re trying to manage right now and make sure that it’s not something that’s going to linger or affect something down the line.”
If Olynyk is not 100 percent for the start of the regular season, expect Leonard to start in the frontcourt next to Adebayo. The Heat has used Leonard and Adebayo as its starting frontcourt in each of the four preseason games.
It has been a struggle for Robinson this preseason ... until Thursday.
Robinson, 25, had made just 6 of 24 threes over the first three preseason games. But the 6-8 forward snapped his shooting slump, with 17 points on 4-of-8 shooting on threes against the Magic.
Despite the shooting struggles, the Heat has remained confident in Robinson. Spoelstra called Robinson “one of the best shooters on this planet” during training camp.
“It was good to see the ball go in the basket for him,” Spoelstra said. “I know how much time he puts in behind the scenes. His head coach doesn’t care, but I know he does.”
It wasn’t Herro’s best performance of the preseason, but it was another memorable one for the Heat’s rookie guard.
It wasn’t because of the numbers, though. Herro finished with eight points on 3-of-8 shooting.
But late in the third quarter, Herro made a three-point shot over Magic guard Michael Carter-Williams and had some words for Carter-Williams. The two players received technicals for the trash-talk.
Just seconds later, the words continued between Herro and Carter-Williams and there was a small shove. Both players were originally called for a second technical and ejected, but Herro’s technical was rescinded upon further review. Carter-Williams was ejected, though.
Heat players laughed at the whole thing, as they seem to enjoy Herro’s competitive demeanor. Even Spoelstra offered a smile following Herro’s first technical.
“He has it. From Milwaukee, 414,” Butler said with a smile. “But I like that guy. I can only say it so many times. But like I said earlier, if I was a ref, I would have kicked his [butt] out of the game. You got to go, buddy. You want to be tough. Get out of here.”