The Miami Heat welcomed the Detroit Pistons for its season opener, securing a 103-102 victory, escaping in the final minutes of the game.
“If you can guarantee that we win, I’ll take that 10 out of 10 times,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “I loved it, I loved the emotion tonight, I loved the energy.”
Spoelstra rolls with a plethora of lineups
Questions surrounding the Heat’s starting lineup were requested throughout the entire offseason, with the biggest hole in Miami’s starting point guard slot. Spoelstra was rather quiet about Kyle Lowry and his role with the team during the preseason, but his name being called tonight helps give clarification to the lineup. Spoelstra rolled with Lowry, Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Kevin Love, and Bam Adebayo to start the game.
The Heat aren’t afraid to use unique lineups, whether that’s putting wing at point guard or calling a big to run the offense at the top of the key. During their matchup against the Pistons, Spoelstra tried everything. He played 10 players in the first half, including some newer faces in Dru Smith and Jaime Jaquez Jr.
Miami relied on several players to run the offense with Adebayo, Lowry, Smith, and Caleb Martin all getting a chance to bring the ball up the floor. Spoelstra also switched the lineup in and out of the game in bulk, much like a college basketball team. He sent two to three replacements in the game at a time, leaving Herro to lead a group of reserves (Martin, Jaquez, Duncan Robinson, and Thomas Bryant) in both halves.
Lack of 3-point attempts
In the modern-day NBA, it’s normal to shoot 40-plus 3s per game. Spoelstra and the Heat decided to wave off that norm and play the game inside out. Miami took just 22 shots from deep, making eight.
Herro and Love combined for 13 attempts, while the rest of the starting lineup didn’t even get a look from 3. The team shot 36.4% from that range and 40.2% from the field. The offense just wasn’t there, with the Pistons forcing Miami into high-screen traps, leaving most of the opportunities within 15 feet.
“I did like the shots,” Spoelstra said. “For all the analytics people out there we’re going to get our 3s up. We also have guys that can operate in the paint. That can distort a defense just as effectively.”
Miami’s defense leads the way
With the offense having a lackluster performance across the board, the Heat needed to dig into their roots. They relied on their constant deflections and traps to get the Pistons out of rhythm. Miami ended the match with 11 steals to Detroit’s three and forced 17 turnovers to their seven.
Detroit made a persistent push at the lead, but the Heat’s experience and leadership caused the Pistons to have trouble when it counted most. Miami held Detroit scoreless in the final 1:44 of the game
Young talent can help veterans rest without missing games
One of the biggest keys to the Heat’s success against the Pistons was fresh legs. Spoelstra talked about this Miami roster as one of the deepest he’s had the past few seasons and that clearly showed with the plethora of lineups presented.
They’ve officially found their backup center in Bryant and definitely have solid answers to fill in place of Butler and Love. Jacquez played ample minutes, and Robinson joined him in that category. Late in the second half, Spoelstra had a lineup that included Herro, Robinson, Jacquez, Martin, and Bryant. This was the exact lineup that helped seal the win and pull away in the third quarter, opening up a 19-point lead that ended up being just too much for the Pistons to overcome.
If these role players are able to contribute in the second half, whether the Heat have a lead or deficit, then we’ll see rest days decrease from starters. This gives a chance for Butler, Love, Lowry, and Adebayo to sit back and play calculated minutes, which is going to work wonders for Miami in the second half of the season.
“I think that guys are just so comfortable in our offense and then you know they’re buying into our defensive strategies,” Butler said. “If you just fly around and play hard, somehow, someway the ball is going to find you on offense.
“As long as they keep doing what they’re doing I think it’ll make the starter’s job a lot easier.”