Familiarity a bonus for Miami Heat in shortened preseason

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, shown from Media Day, is looking for his players to continue to build a rhythm and better feel for each other during the final five games of the preseason. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

MIAMI – Coach Erik Spoelstra tipped his hand in the Heat’s preseason opener against the Hawks Sunday with a starting lineup that featured Rodney McGruder at small forward and James Johnson at power forward and an entertaining, versatile second unit.

And with just five preseason games remaining starting tonight at Brooklyn, Spoelstra doesn’t have as much time as usual to get his team ready for start of the regular season.

“I’m going to look at some lineups, continue to install, try to continue to build our identity and see if we can hammer those things in in 10 days,” Spoelstra said.

Typically, the Heat have played eight preseason games. But with camp shortened by one week most teams have cut down on preseason games. Some will play as few as three.

The Heat will squeeze their final five games into nine days, playing every other day until Oct. 13.

“Our guys got to play (but) nobody will play a full complement of minutes,” Spoelstra said. “I don’t even know if I’ll do a full dress rehearsal.

“As long as guys are getting in better rhythm, a better feel for each other, understanding fully what our identity is, how we want to play. … And each guy’s role within that. Those are the things I’ll be looking for.”

The second unit of Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Johnson, Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Wayne Ellington was unveiled Sunday and appeared to have a chemistry already.

Having a team in which virtually every key player from last season returns helps in a condensed preseason.

“The top 10 or 11 guys. … we’re able to basically review the offense from last year,” Spoelstra said. “Not that they knew it absolutely lock step like we had it last year but it was a review, it wasn’t teaching and installing new compared to last year’s training camp

“You can see the guys that were here last year that played in that first preseason game you could see where they felt a fairly decent comfort level.”

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