Long-range shooting by the New Orleans Pelicans revealed what Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is pointing to as a short-term problem encountered by his team’s defense.
The Pelicans knocked down 14 of 32 three-point attempts and kept the Heat at bay in the second half to post a 98-86 win at the KFC Yum! Center.
“It’s a process of trying to establish our defense — obviously they were getting too many open looks from three beyond the arc — a lot of pick-and-roll coverages that we need to work on and build on that,” Spoelstra said.
It was the first preseason game for both teams, so there was nothing particularly telling about the performance of either team. If the Heat carries a chip on its collective shoulders, there’s a bit of dust on it, but nothing that a little work together won’t cure.
Case in point: the Heat’s starting five of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng, Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers combined for just 23 points, with Bosh scoring nine on 3-of-13 shooting.
“We’re getting all those guys on the same team a lot more often than we would in the past in terms of starters,” Spoelstra said of his starting five — and he said it like a coach who knew that the first game of the preseason was going to reveal some kinks that need to be worked out.
But the game did reveal some interesting moments that the Heat can build on as the preseason progresses.
After a slow start, the Heat got a huge boost off the bench from Danny Granger, Shawne Williams, James Ennis and Norris Cole.
Down 15-9 late in the first quarter, the Heat surged on the strength of a Granger three-pointer, followed by an assist on a basket by Williams. Ennis added four free throws in the final minute and the Heat led 18-16 going into the second quarter.
Cole got the second quarter started with a basket and two free throws, then Granger capped a 12-0 run with a bucket on an assist from Cole. That put the Heat on top 24-16 early in the second quarter — and it proved to be the high-water mark for Spoelstra’s group here.
The good news was already in the books: The Miami bench brings some talent and energy to the floor, and when the starting five gels, this squad will be dangerous.
But with all the good things Spoelstra saw, it was perimeter defense that the Heat needs to work on.
New Orleans brought a bevy of three-point shooters to the party — and three three-pointers by Ryan Anderson helped the Pelicans to a 30-27 lead midway through the second quarter. The Heat hung around, but a three-pointer by Jimmer Fredette and two long-range shots by Luke Babbitt helped the Pelicans to a 44-35 halftime lead.
The Heat never led in the second half, getting within 55-54 in the third quarter and 78-74 in the fourth, but each time the Pelicans had a three-point answer.
Babbitt’s three-pointer that made it 81-74 with 7:46 left in the game proved to be the dagger, as the Heat never got within five after that.
Ennis finished with 17 points, and Granger and Williams added 12 points each to lead the Heat. New Orleans was paced by Fredette (17 points) and Babbitt (15); the two combined to hit 8 of 14 from long range.
A sellout crowd of 20,074 saw the game in Louisville.