With two tough challenges lined up for the Miami Heat to start the season, they batted them both down looking much improved in the process. Although they almost lost the game after the Boston Celtics stormed back from a 20-point deficit, the Heat battled back and were able to finish what they started.
At this point, it's safe to say that Miami will avoid a sluggish opening to the season, something that really hampered them last season. Being in mid-season form early in a compacted season is going to play a crucial part in a huge jump start in the Eastern Conference, so look for Miami to keep this momentum going forward and drawing plenty of analysis and attention.
With the Heat traveling to Charlotte to play a game Wednesday night, let's check out what we learned from a victory over the Boston Celtics.
A lot was said about the poor performances the role players for Miami played last year in the NBA Finals, but this year seems like a different story. They have the needed depth to surround the Big Three with players who can cover key aspects necessary for this team to take the next step.
James Jones knocked down three-point attempts when called upon.
Udonis Haslem has grabbed double-digit rebounds in both games this season.
Shane Battier has played fabulous defense, which he was brought in to do.
Miami will get improved play from the point guard position as the season progresses, but as of right now they will take what they can get.
There is no doubt that the Heat can beat you many ways offensively, but no team is more dangerous than Miami when they push the pace.
By not letting the Celtics set up with a half-court defense, Miami was able to show success at getting favorable matchups and finding ways to get to the free-throw line for easy points. Boston often looked frustrated on the floor considering they were one of the best teams in the NBA last year defensively, but Miami made them play their game which made a key difference.
However, Boston put on a zone defense in the second half of the game which Miami had some trouble breaking. Not allowing them to set this up only plays in favor of the Heat.
Zone defenses were somewhat of a kryptonite for Miami in the NBA Finals, so look for Miami to continue to find ways to break that down and avoid it at all costs.
Pushing the tempo remains the best option to do so...
Both Miami and Boston were unable to control the ball Tuesday night as they combined for over 40 turnovers. There is no way either team can have long term success unless they cut this number down to create more opportunity offensively.
The bright spot in this is Miami's ability to create steals leading to fast break scoring and limit Boston's shot attempts.
Miami could be the fastest, most talented defense in the NBA and they showed it against a veteran team with an elite point guard.
The Heat also had eight blocks in the game, four from Wade, proving that he could be one of the toughest defenders in the game today.
Mario Chalmers has been a nice player on the defensive end of the floor, but has been ineffective while handling the ball. After having four steals in the first half of the game, Chalmers followed that up with four turnovers within two minutes of the second half.
I was a big advocate in bringing Mario Chalmers back to South Beach, and I stand by that, but he's gotten off to an atrocious start so far.
On the other hand you have a rookie in Norris Cole who has shown the confidence and promise to play at the NBA level. Drafted as a possible starting point guard for Miami's future, he could get to see some starting minutes sooner than later.
Cole played like a stud in his first home game for the Miami Heat which should only garner him more playing time, but most important was his clutch play down the stretch.
Could we see an early switch at the point guard position?
I don't think this happens anytime soon as Chalmers is saving himself with his defensive work, but if he cannot run the offense he might be destined to be a solid role player off the bench.
Say what you want about Chris Bosh, but he is a star in this league. Pat Riley wanted to put together a championship team based around three great NBA players and he has put the pieces in place.
After a terrible showing against the defending champion Dallas Mavericks, Bosh retaliated in a big way by putting up a double-double, something Miami hopes to see all year.
Bosh will likely not see the touches that Wade and James do, but the fact that he made the most out of his opportunities is a great sign. He found ways to score inside as well as hitting jumpers from multiple spots on the floor, including a three-pointer.
Expect James and Wade to do what they do best throughout the season, but Bosh is a huge factor in the team's success as well.
Miami fans can breathe a sigh of relief now after Miami finished Boston in the fourth quarter. However, it is a sign of concern for the defending Eastern Conference champions.
As good as this team can be during games, they often lack the focus and ability to close out a sure win.
Game 2 of the NBA Finals is a perfect example, as Miami blew a huge fourth quarter lead and lost total control of the series shortly after.
This is a well conditioned team with plenty of talent, but no lead is secure when there is significant time on the clock. Getting a 20-point lead in a game is a gift, but it's not a certainty as far as a guaranteed win goes.
Closing is crucial for Miami's success, but could turn out to be a huge concern if they don't show focus late in games.
Whether it's playing safer offensively, staying aggressive or switching things up defensively, Miami must make this a key issue in the long run.