All preseason all we heard from the Miami Heat was how its starting lineup didn’t have enough time on the floor together, how it needed to figure out how to share the ball and make it all work.
It sure wasn’t a struggle Wednesday night.
Miami shot 49.3 percent, made 12 of its 20 three-point attempts and got contributions from just about everyone, opening the season with a 104-94 victory over the Charlotte Hornets in front of the 247th consecutive sellout crowd at AmericanAirlines Arena.
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Chris Bosh, playing in his first game since blood clots in his lung hospitalized him and cost him the second half of last season, had 21 points and 10 rebounds to the lead way.
Gerald Green, the star of Miami’s preseason, continued his torrid stretch, swishing five three-pointers and scoring 19 points off the bench in 31 minutes.
And Dwyane Wade had 20 points and five assists and helped the Heat down the stretch after the Hornets trimmed a 20-point third-quarter lead to five with under a minute to play.
“It was our 13th home opener and the one thing I know is we don’t have 13 left,” Wade said of he, Bosh and Udonis Haslem being in their 13th seasons.
The moment coach Erik Spoelstra might have liked most? When all five Heat players touched the ball and it eventually found Luol Deng for an open three, which he swished with 38.8 seconds left to seal the victory.
“Those are the toughest times to do it is when you trust your talent and your own self-will to … make the right basketball play,” Spoelstra said.
“Dwyane moved it, got it to Goran [Dragic]. He had an opportunity to make a play. It looked like he was open for a second for a three and moved it for a better one. So it goes from good to good to great and you live with the result. But those are habits you build of trusting your teammates, sharing the game and working for the best available shot.”
Justise Winslow, meanwhile, had his fingerprints all over Miami’s win.
The rookie, considered the steal of the draft with the 10th pick, entered with 5:51 to go in the opening quarter and stayed in the rest of the half, helping the Heat turn a seven-point deficit to a 54-44 halftime lead behind his stout defense.
Despite taking only two shots — a three-pointer he swished and a memorable drive and left-handed dunk over two defenders — Winslow finished plus-26 for the game over a stretch of 25 minutes. He grabbed seven rebounds, dished out two assists and did a great job guarding the ball.
“I love seeing the boxscore; they have this new thing right now where you see what coaches have been saying for the last several years,” Spoelstra said.
“I love those stat lines where nothing jumps out at you except for the scoreboard. He’s a basketball player. He plays to win. He’s proven it. I’ve said this since earlier on in training camp, you can’t evaluate Justise’s game by analytics. Sometimes it doesn’t tell the true story. He just makes winning plays both ends of the court.”
Said Winslow: “We’ve got a lot of guys that can put the ball in the hole. Sometimes you need guys that are willing to make the extra play for someone else. Tonight I tried to do that a little bit.”
Down 35-28 with 7:35 left in the half, Spoelstra called timeout to regroup.
After the break, Miami came out a different team. Wade fed Haslem for a dunk.
Then Deng and Dragic made layups in transition before Winslow found Wade on a drive to the basket for a layup and the lead.
It was just the start of a 17-4 run that gave the Heat control of the game. Winslow was in for it all.
As good as Winslow was in the first half, it was an entirely different start to the season for center Hassan Whiteside as 12-year veteran Al Jefferson took him to school. Jefferson scored at will against Whiteside and kept slapping the ball out of Whiteside’s hands on the other side of the court.
After four minutes and 26 seconds that featured a missed jumper, two turnovers, a foul and no rebounds, Spoelstra had seen enough of Whiteside and called on the veteran Haslem to replace him.
Haslem and Bosh manned the middle the rest of the way as the Heat went small and rallied to take the lead in the second quarter.
“Overall, it takes everybody to understand what it’s all about,” said Spoelstra, who played 10 players total, with Chris Andersen, James Ennis and Tyler Johnson being the only reserves to sit the whole night.
“And the only thing that matters is the win.”