Miami Heat: A guide to the team’s first preseason game

SAN ANTONIO, TX - SEPTEMBER 30: The Miami Heat huddles up before the game against the San Antonio Spurs on September 30, 2018 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - SEPTEMBER 30: The Miami Heat huddles up before the game against the San Antonio Spurs on September 30, 2018 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images) /

From turnover in the broadcast booth to turnovers on the court, the Miami Heat had some noteworthy occurrences in its first preseason game.

The Miami Heat’s first preseason game against the San Antonio Spurs is effectively a microcosm of the NBA’s recent history.

Though the marquee reads a familiar title that refers back to the 2013 and 2014 NBA finals; the game is more of a spiritual successor to those series than a rightful continuation.

In the four years that have passed since the Heat fell 4-1 in the 2014 Finals, both teams have undergone significant cosmetic realignment. Even though the Heat and Spurs front offices and coaching staff are largely synonymous with their predecessors, the rosters have embraced significant adjustments.

Despite this, both teams are competitive as ever, with Miami in particular looking to regroup after making the playoffs last season for the first time since 2016.

As Miami’s first game back from a five-month break from organized hoops (no, Summer League doesn’t count), the 48-minute contest stands as the first look at Miami’s strategy. In addition to adjusting to the NBA’s new shot clock rules, Miami is working to find its next star amidst the rumored fallout of the Jimmy Butler trade.

How did Miami fare in the 104-100 loss against the Spurs?

Here is everything you need to know about the Heat’s first preseason game.

New look commentary booth

Considering the relative stagnation of Miami’s roster – 14 players from last season return to the Heat’s ranks – Miami’s biggest change comes in the broadcast booth.

John Crotty, an 11-year NBA veteran and former point guard with the Miami Heat, takes up the mantle of color commentator, following the retirement of Tony “Coach” Fiorentino.

Crotty certainly has credentials.

2018-19 is his 14th year in a broadcasting capacity, formerly working Heat games on the radio.

Alongside Eric Reid, Crotty sounds right at home bringing his intimate knowledge of the team to the broadcast. The only thing he is missing is a trademark or catchphrase, that can infiltrate the lingo of Heat Nation.

Fiorentino championed “yeah, baby!” and Reid has “kaboom!”, so now it’s time for Crotty to make his mark.

Derrick Jones Jr. might be a starter

Preseason rosters should always be taken with salt applied liberally to your arena food of choice.

Players are still fighting nagging injuries and coaches decide to give their young upstarts a chance at starting in the big time.

In Derrick Jones Jr.’s case however, his availability to the starting, regular season lineup, might not be a preseason fluke.

Last year, Jones started eight of the 14 games he played with Miami on a two-way contract. His energetic style of play was just the spark the Heat needed to get out of the gate.

Against San Antonio, Jones was a bit out matched, forced to guard 6-foot-11 LaMarcus Aldridge and 7-foot Pau Gasol. But being anchored in the paint, made great use of his stringy arms, allowing him to help out on drives and disrupt passing lanes.

Once Richardson, Johnson and Waiters return, Jones’ chance at starting will certainly be limited, but the faith instilled in him by the organization could see him reach new heights.

Whiteside worked it out

It’s no longer the stuff of legends.

Whiteside, who earned praise at Miami’s scrimmages and closed door training camp practices, flaunted his new, 13-pound lighter physique in San Antonio, and it renewed faith in his competitive edge.

Whiteside screened harder, recovered on defense faster and refrained from drawing a foul until midway through the second quarter.

For the first time since 2016-17, Whiteside channeled his frustration into his productivity. When he didn’t get an interior touch early in the first quarte,r he snatched a defensive board and pushed the break, finishing with a Euro-step and finger roll.

Being able to contribute even when he’s not getting his usual post touches will be a major boost to Miami’s productivity. When he and Olynyk were cohabiting, Whiteside even flared out to the corner, signaling his forthcoming reliance on his jumper (he nailed a 3 in the third quarter).

This game marked the first time Whiteside completely checked his ego at the door, notching 20 points, 13 rebounds, two steals and a block in 23 minutes.

He’ll have to continue that trend if Miami is going to make a splash in the East this year.

Old habits die hard

As preseason games tend to go, both the Heat and Spurs had more than enough shortcomings.

There were spine-tingling missed dunks and backboard bricked 3’s aplenty, but that is par for the course before the regular season starts.

What Miami can’t make a habit of however, is a problem that plagued the team all last year. The Heat were sixth in drives last season, attacking the paint 47.5 times per game. That equates to almost a drive per minute and accurately summarizes the team’s preferred play type.

Where that play fell short however, was in the poorly telegraphed and bailout passes that missed their mark and prompted fast breaks for the opposition. In Sunday’s game, almost every Heat player that attempted a shot, also attempted a mistargeted kickout pass that went careening into the hands of the Spurs.

The drive and kick set up is going to be a familiar look for Miami, a team that embraces a willingness to launch 3’s without hesitation.

Unfortunately, too many misfired passes will undermine Miami’s shooting dreams.

Yesterday’s stat line tells the tragedy of 20 turnovers and 36.8 percent shooting from the floor.

Pacing the outlet opportunities with intellectually sound ball movement will be key in Miami’s hunt for a winning offense.

Just keep switching

Defensively, Miami continued to embrace head coach Erik Spoelstra’s vision.

Now that Olynyk and Whiteside have shed pounds and added quickness, Miami is no longer so disadvantaged guarding pick and rolls.

It remains true that the less time Whiteside and Olynyk spend guarding the wings, the better. But now, the Heat have the capability to recover on those plays with its centers’ disrupting passing lanes in the shuffle.

Relying too heavily on switching however, especially against a sizeable team like the Spurs, showcases how easily Miami’s rotations can be exploited. On consecutive possessions, the Spurs garnered a mismatch that left Goran Dragic and Rodney McGruder guarding the post.

Those plays opened up the Spurs to a nine-point lead, while highlighting Miami’s continued offensive struggles in the third quarter. Miami was able to stay within range of a comeback, in large part to the team’s spread-eagle approach to clogging passing lanes.

The Heat’s efforts manifested as 11 steals on the night.

Switching is the way of the future in the NBA, with teams like the Golden State Warriors making use of any open space for a 3-point attempt on poorly guarded plays. The onus is on Miami to elegantly adapt to the opponents tendencies, without jeopardizing the defense with mismatches.

Which players make the cut?

Even more volatile than judging skill in preseason, is determining which players will make the jump to the NBA.

Though much of Miami’s opening night roster is set, the team still allotted time to Duncan Robinson, one of Miami’s two players on two-way contracts. The forward proved his stroke will translate to the NBA, hitting 3-for-8 on his triples, all of which appeared fundamentally sound.

Among those not getting a chance to shine outside of garbage time yesterday were Marcus Lee, Yante Maten and Malik Newman, all of whom are trying to use preseason as a way to plead their cases to the Heat.

Given Miami’s needs at point and the league’s open arms to efficient 3-point snipers, Weber and Robinson stand as the most likely to see action in a Heat uniform this season.

At times, Weber played in fifth gear when he was better off in third, but his fearlessness in driving to the rim despite meeting an outstretched palm, should score high marks among Miami brass.

Next. 3 reasons to be excited for the Miami Heat’s 2018-19 season. dark

The Heat still have five preseason games remaining, but with the roster effectively locked up, Miami’s young and restless are more likely to be unfortunate injury call ups than overnight success stories.