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Miami Heat

5 takeaways from Heat’s win over Magic in season opener

Miami Heat's Justise Winslow (20) drives past Orlando Magic's Aaron Gordon, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
AP Photo/John Raoux

The Miami Heat aren’t a super team. But unlike the Golden State Warriors or the New York Knicks, the Heat weren’t drubbed by 29 points in their season opener. In fact, they were able to win their first game, defeating the Orlando Magic, 108-96.

It was a tale of two halves for the Heat, specifically for their defense:

  • 1st half: 53 points allowed, 46.1% FG, 50% 3PT (3-6), 113 DRTG
  • 2nd half: 43 points allowed, 38.1% FG, 27.3% 3PT (3-11), 85.3 DRTG

Once the Heat were able to lock in defensively, they were able to turn long rebounds and Orlando turnovers into quick points. The increase in pace and easy opportunities gave Miami some confidence, which eventually helped them blow the game open:

  • 1st half: 50 points, 45.1% FG, 12.5% 3PT (1-8), 102.8 ORTG, 95.56 pace
  • 2nd half: 58 points, 52.2% FG, 37.5% 3PT (3-8), 112.8 ORTG, 101.8 pace

Of course, this was only game one of an 82-game marathon, but it was a step in the right direction for the new-look Heat.

Here are five takeaways from their 12-point win.

1. HASSAN WHITESIDE CONTROLLED THE PAINT

  • STATS: 18 points (9-16 FG), 14 rebounds, 4 blocks, +5

 

Whiteside was efficient at what he did well; he scored 12 points on 6-7 shooting as either a cutter or a roller in pick-and-roll, and got his other six points off putbacks (3-4 shooting).

Defensively, Whiteside was disciplined. The four blocked shots were nice, but his overall presence in the interior was palpable. Via SportVU tracking data, Whiteside defended 11 shots at the rim, but only allowed one makeAllowing 9.1 percent shooting at the rim is tremendous.

2. THE BENCH UNIT CAME TO PLAY

  • STATS: 42 points (17-28 FG, 2-6 3PT), 17 rebounds, 10 assists, 4 steals, 1 block

Miami brought four guys off the bench: Tyler Johnson, Rodney McGruder, James Johnson and Willie Reed. Of those four, McGruder was the only one that didn’t score in double figures, but he made up for that with a plus-minus of 15.

The quartet played 10 minutes together, posting a 132.1 offensive rating and a 73.1 defensive rating. I’d like to think that a net rating of 59 is rather decent.

The lineup of those four plus Justise Winslow was the one that blew the doors off the game to open the fourth quarter:

 

Tyler Johnson followed up a strong preseason with a 15-point, 6-rebound, 2-steal performance.

James Johnson inexplicably went 2-4 from deep and dished out six assists to go along with his 11 points.

Willie Reed chipped in with 10 points and 6 rebounds, getting busy on the move (8 points on 4-5 shooting as a cutter or roll-man in pick-and-roll).

Rodney McGruder only scored six points, but played solid defense and was active and aggressive for most of his 23-minute stint. Wayne Ellington and Josh Richardson being out opened up minutes for McGruder, but it’s hard to see him losing them if he keeps playing like this.

3. THE LUKE BABBITT EXPERIMENT WAS IFFY

  • STATS: 8 points (3-10 FG, 2-6 3PT), 2 assists, 1 rebound, +12

Babbitt wasn’t killed defensively; that’s a win in and of itself. However, Babbitt couldn’t get going on offense. He went 2-7 (28.6% FG) on spot-up attempts, well below the efficiency he’s capable of, and what’s expected of him.

Babbitt’s value starts and probably ends with his shooting. If he isn’t knocking down shots from the perimeter, he needs to be on a short leash.

4. JUSTISE WINSLOW WAS A MIXED BAG OFFENSIVELY

  • STATS: 15 points (7-15 FG, 0-2 3PT), 8 rebounds (3 offensive), 4 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal, +15

Winslow thrived in transition (7 points on 3-3 shooting), which is how he created his biggest highlight.

He scored another four points (2-3 FG) operating the pick-and-roll. He was active on the boards, getting a putback on a missed Whiteside free throw early in the first quarter.

But his jumper, man.

I appreciate the confidence he showed in it this summer, and the form itself is smoother. Against Orlando, it was virtually nonexistent.

Winslow didn’t make a shot outside of five feet, and he air-balled a pair of mid-range jumpers. This will be interesting to watch moving forward this year.

5. GORAN DRAGIC HELPED LOCK THE DOOR

  • STATS: 16 points (7-15 FG), 6 rebounds, 6 assists, -3

Dragic had his struggles in the first half with Elfrid Payton draped all over him, but got going once Miami was able to get out and run in the second half. What stood out to me were a pair of jumpers Dragic hit in the 4th.

The Magic were riding a mini-run and had chipped the lead down to 12. Dragic came down, ran a high pick-and-roll and canned a pull-up jumper on the right elbow with 6:56 left.

With 5:26 left, Dragic got free during a scramble and drained a 3 to put Miami (back) up 15.

In this particular game, those weren’t game-ending shots. They were, however, shots that helped neutralize a late push. Those kinds of shots matter.

Without Dwyane Wade, Miami will need Dragic to step up as a run neutralizer. It’ll be interesting to see how he responds in closer games.

The Heat will be taking on the Charlotte Hornets Friday night, a rematch of their first-round playoff series last season. The Hornets are coming off a not-that-close 11-point win over the Milwaukee Bucks (107-96), led by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s double-double (23 points, 14 rebounds).

KEY MATCHUPS

1. Hassan Whiteside vs. Roy Hibbert

  • It’s imperative that Whiteside gets fed early in pick-and-roll and makes Hibbert move. Hibbert may be known more for trashcan memes on Twitter than actual basketball at this point, but he had a very good showing in the Bucks game, and is still a stout, intelligent interior defender. Awkward post-ups won’t work; Whiteside must get him on the move.

2. Kemba Walker vs. Insert Heat Defender Here

  • To start the game, I would assume Dragic draws this matchup, but Erik Spoelstra may elect to switch most of everything on the perimeter. Walker is a problem in high pick-and-roll situations, possessing the ability to snipe from the perimeter, sprinkle in pull-up jimmies or slither to the rim for tough finishes. The key to corralling Walker is getting over the screen; Dragic, Tyler Johnson, and Winslow are good at fighting over. If that trio can keep Walker from penetrating the middle, they could stunt Charlotte’s offense

3. Willie Reed vs. Cody Zeller

  • This is going to be fun to watch. Both are athletic bigs who love crashing the offensive glass and dunking. Reed started off slowly in the preseason but eventually found his way, and helped turned the tide in the second half against Orlando (10 points, 6 rebounds). Zeller was dealing with an injury this preseason but showed out in the opener against Milwaukee (15 points in 14 minutes).

All stats courtesy of NBA.com

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