MIAMI – This is what the preseason is for.
Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters all sat out the Heat’s 117-115 victory over the Washington Wizards, which allowed rookie Bam Adebayo to have his best game of the preseason and Jordan Mickey to win the game with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer Wednesday night.
Josh Richardson, Rodney McGruder, Wayne Ellington, Okaro White and Kelly Olynyk started the game and were up against a formidable Wizards lineup that included John Wall, Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat. The result was the Heat falling behind 30-19 after the first quarter and depending on Adebayo, Tyler Johnson and James Johnson to bring them back.
Adebayo led the Heat with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting and Tyler Johnson added 14. Mickey finished with 12. Mickey’s shot triggered a celebration from the Heat as good as any in the regular season.
“You’d rather have a close game just for the emotion, the passion,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They feel everything, every whistle, blown coverage, every missed shot, heartbeat goes up. You can’t replicate that in practice.”
The Heat wrap up the preseason Friday in Kansas City, Mo., with a game against Philadelphia. The regular season starts Wednesday in Orlando.
Here are our three takeaways:
Bam breaks out: Okay, it’s just preseason but it was significant for Adebayo. The Heat’s first-round draft pick appears to be over the jitters and had his best game by far. Of course, that was not hard considering he entered the game with just nine points and six rebounds in four games, including missing all but one of his 10 shots from the field.
Adebayo scored seven points during one 79-second stretch of the second quarter with two post-ups against Gortat – including a three-point play after drawing the foul – and a dunk on lob pass from McGruder. He had a similar dunk on a feed from James Johnson in the second half. Adebayo received his biggest ovation in the fourth quarter when he slammed the ball home on a baseline cut.
The 6-foot-10 big man admitted to being nervous in his debut, one in which he missed 7-of-8 free throws, and on Monday he was surprised to hear his name called by Spoelstra in the first half, something Spoelstra said he did purposely to drive home the point that he has to be ready at all times.
“He was a thousand times better in the second quarter,” Spoelstra said. “He knew it was coming, he knew he was going to play. I was going to try to trick him somehow just to keep him off balanced. He was so ready. And you see the athleticism, the toughness, the multiple efforts that he brings. True vertical threat.”
Johnson & Johnson back together: It’s looking more and more like James Johnson will come off the bench and be reunited with buddy Tyler Johnson as the leaders of the second unit. Even with 60 percent of the starting lineup having the night off, Spoelstra opted to bring both off the bench and they sparked a 14-4 run to open the second quarter.
Both played 18:17 and were on the court together the entire time. James finished with 12 points, six rebounds and four assists while Tyler had 14 points, three rebounds and three assists.
James said that chemistry comes from, “working on it in practice, taking practice serious, every little detail in that we just don’t run it because coaches want us to do it, we run it with a meaning and a purpose every time. We kind of know each other from that.”
While James seemed in a funk the first two games, both starts, he has looked like a different player since coming in as a reserve. Tyler has been one of the Heat’s most consistent performers from the get-go.
James was 2-of-9 from the floor and has as many assists (three) as turnovers while starting the first two games. In the past three games, he has scored 22 points with 14 rebounds and 12 assists and has admitted he is more in his “comfort zone.”
Winslow still finding his way: Justise Winslow has had a rough preseason shooting the ball and it continued Wednesday. But after logging the majority of his minutes at power forward during the preseason, the third-year forward from Duke appeared comfortable Wednesday facilitating the offense.
Winslow finished with nine assists and six rebounds. In the two games prior to Wednesday, he had just three assists and as many turnovers (five) as points. Four of those points came in the final seconds of Monday’s game against Charlotte in which Spoelstra left him on the court, hoping to instill confidence after he emptied his bench. On Wednesday, Winslow assisted on a Derrick Walton Jr. three with 36 seconds to give the Heat a one-point lead.
“It felt good,” Winslow said. “The shot didn’t fall but I found a way to get into rhythm, enjoying my teammates knocking down shot. Just trying to play make out there.”
Winslow missed his first six shots Wednesday before hitting a corner 3 for his first field goal. He finishing with seven points on 1-of-7 shooting.