Miami Heat: Aleks Mickoski's Preseason Diaries, Part 1

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I’ve always seen the preseason as a time of experimentation for teams. While the games may not be important at all in terms of wins and losses, it gives them the opportunity to try out new rotations, implement new offensive and defensive strategies, observe how new acquisitions fit in, and it also gives training camp invitees a proving ground.

The Miami Heat are no stranger to this, as they’ve embarked on all of the above. Erik Spoelstra and company have been very busy trying out, among other things a positionless lineup, where each player on the court is defined by talent, and how it meshes in regards to the skillsets of the other four players. In addition, they’ve given players like Garrett Temple, Robert Dozier, Dexter Pittman and Josh Harrellson meaningful minutes to varying levels of success. And, seeing as how the Heat are the defending NBA champions, there’s 29 other teams who’ve now made it their mission to stifle LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and company. It’s all a matter of adjusting to the competition. And the preseason is the first chance the Heat will have to do so. So with 7 of 8 games in the books, here are my thoughts on Miami’s first 4 games of the 2012-13 preseason.

October 7th, 2012
Miami Heat 79 – 92 Atlanta Hawks
Score by Quarter: 26-19, 19-28, 21-23, 13-22

This one started brightly for the Heat, but fizzled soon after the opening quarter. Chris Bosh led the way with 22 points on 8-14 shooting in only 23 minutes, and looked great here as the newly-minted center. Ray Allen chipped in with 10 points while going 5-8 from the floor in his first game as a member of the Miami Heat. Norris Cole struggled as the starting point guard, however finishing with a 5-13 night from the field for 13 points, as well as coughing up 5 turnovers. Dexter Pittman was a team-worst -16 in 18 minutes, and only had 3 points, 4 rebounds and 4 fouls to show for his efforts. Dwyane Wade did not feature due to his recovery from off-season knee surgery. A rough game overall for Miami, with 22 turnovers and 23 fouls committed. Then again, seeing as how this was the first preseason game for the Heat, there was undoubtedly going to be rust that had to be shaken off.

October 11th, 2012
Miami Heat 94 – 80 Los Angeles Clippers
Score by Quarter: 29-18, 24-17, 23-25, 18-20

In the first of two tilts against the Clippers in China, Miami rolled to a big lead in the first half and never looked back. LeBron James was unstoppable in 26 minutes of floor time, finishing with 20 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds while hitting 8 of 9 free throws. Ray Allen also found his range, drilling 4 3-pointers and finishing with 15 points. Dwyane Wade made his return, and while he was as sound as ever defensively, with 4 steals and 2 blocks, he shot only 2-8 for 5 points in 23 minutes. Rodney Carney had a nice showing off the bench, totalling 11 points and was 3-4 from downtown in only 13 minutes of action. As a whole, Miami limited their turnovers, finishing with only 12. Better yet, they forced the Clippers into giving away the ball 25 times, 12 of those off of steals. Miami’s defensive intensity was much more noticeable here than it was against Atlanta.

October 14th, 2012
Los Angeles Clippers 99 – 89 Miami Heat
Score By Quarter: 32-22, 25-21, 27-24, 15-22

This game turned out the exact opposite of the previous one – Miami fell behind by double-digits early, and did not find a way back into the contest. LeBron James contributed 11 points to go along with 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals in 20 minutes. Rodney Carney turned in another impressive performance off the bench, hitting 3 more 3-pointers and finishing with a team-high 15 points. Josh Harrellson helped out with 9 points and 6 rebounds in 21 minutes. Ray Allen’s shooting touch deserted him on this night, missing all 5 of his attempts from long range, and was 3-10 overall for 6 points. Norris Cole’s ball handling was once again akin to a runaway train, as he gave away 6 turnovers. Dwyane Wade only played 8 minutes as he was resting his knee – but in those 8 minutes, he produced a very respectable 7 points and 3 assists. Miami’s defense again showed signs of inconsistency, for while they went crazy with 16 steals, they allowed the Clippers to shoot exactly 50% (39-78) from the field. The rebound advantage also went to the Clippers, which they won 49-36. Miami were outhustled here, and it was clear they were thinking ahead to their upcoming flight out of China rather than the game itself.

October 18th, 2012
Detroit Pistons 78 – 105 Miami Heat
Score By Quarter: 11-27, 23-34, 26-34, 18-10

Finally, a signature Miami Heat performance! In what was an absolute clinic from start to finish, Miami played the kind of game that entailed just why they are the defending NBA Champions. Dwyane Wade finally got his first major stretch of action, and he delivered. 21 points on 9-13 shooting and 5 assists in just 23 minutes proved that he is still as dangerous as ever. Chris Bosh had 17 points and 6 rebounds, while LeBron James put in another typical preseason’s day of work, with 13 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals. Mike Miller got his first taste of the preseason, and shot 2-5 (both 3-pointers) for 6 points. Norris Cole finally had a decent showing, and in 27 minutes racked up a statline of 6 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds and finished with a +30, the highest on the team. Garrett Temple impressed with his shooting, contributing 7 points via 3-6 from the floor, but picked up 5 fouls in just 12 minutes. Rodney Carney, whose 3-point stroke was impressive in China, missed this game due to the flu. Miami held the advantage in virtually every category, whether it be rebounding (51-44), assists (24-15), steals (11-4), blocks (5-1), turnovers (13-16), and FG%/3FG%/FT% (47.6/32.1/75.0 to 35.2/12.5/60.9). If that wasn’t enough, the Heat also torched the Pistons with 24 fast break points! This is the type of game Miami should be looking to emulate every time the walk onto the court – jump on a team early, and not take the pedal off the gas.

Keeping in mind that Wade is still working to get back to 100%, LeBron is effectively coasting, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis are still adjusting to everything, and the fact that Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony had yet to partake in any preseason games, it’s just scary to consider what this group is capable of once the season gets underway! Early indications this preseason have been very good, and players like Garrett Temple, Josh Harrellson and Rodney Carney impressed me by playing to their strengths. Conversely, Dexter Pittman and Mickell Gladness were anything but shining stars when given playing time. I’ll be back in a couple of days to recap the latter half of Miami’s preseason encounters, these being against San Antonio, Charlotte, Washington and New Orleans.

For now, things are very rosy on South Beach. Even if it’s “just preseason”.

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