The Heat was right to feature Norris Cole the most in its “Thriller cam” on Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The video, a montage of Heat players, fans and dancers grooving to Michael Jackson’s seasonal staple, was almost too on-the-nose in Miami’s 107-95 win against Washington in the season opener.
For a large part of the game, Cole was the only thrilling part of the Heat’s offense.
The guard played 27 minutes, went 9 of 15 from the field and notched 23 points on the night, edging his 2-year-old career high of 20 points by the end of the third quarter.
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“I wasn’t even expecting that; I just wanted him to quarterback our team and make decisions and get us organized,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He came out super aggressive at the beginning, almost frantic, and then settled in from there.”
Cole gave up the ball twice in the first six minutes but had only one other turnover on the night.
It wasn’t that Cole was adjusting to his starting role — he started all but one of the Heat’s preseason games — but he and the rest of the Heat did have to settle into the game pace.
A high-energy crowd of 19,744 wasn’t helping him take things slow.
“Oh man, I don’t want to say jitters because we weren’t nervous; but it was nervous energy,” Cole said. “You know, we had so much uncontrollable energy. … I was trying to slow down, the first five minutes I was trying to slow down, and that was everybody. But after that first timeout we settled in and we started to execute.”
After the Heat’s first timeout, Cole was proficient. He facilitated fluid ball movement; he drove to create his own scoring opportunities and was the only Heat player whose shots were dropping early on.
Cole ended the half as the only payer other than Chris Bosh, who racked up 19 points, to score in double digits.
“I just set out to be consistent and play well, take what they give me. I was able to get to certain spots, spots that I practice every day, spots that we as a team practice every day, coming off pick and rolls and making the right read. And the right read was to make the shot. … Take the shot and be aggressive,” Cole said.
“We’re going to need that from everybody at some point this year, but for me it was just take the shot and be aggressive.”
Though Cole and Bosh made an impressive duo, Miami was missing some production, especially hurting from beyond the arc.
Shawne Williams didn’t make a single three-pointer in six attempts and went 1 of 9 from the floor. Luol Deng had 12 points in 29 minutes.
Cole didn’t brush off the offensive missteps but was satisfied with the win as a building block.
“Well, it’s only one game, but it’s good to start the one game with the win,” he said. “You understand that we can’t skip any steps in order to get where we want to get to, so it’s a good start, on our home court, in front of our fans, coming out of training camp. It was good to get out and play somebody else for a change.”