Miami Heat-Detroit Pistons Preseason: How the Heat Put The NBA On Notice
In one night, the Miami Heat managed to answer all the questions being asked about them, and then some.
Let's just say this right off the bat: I know it's crazy to draw grand conclusions from one preseason game. I'm not betting my life savings on the Heat as NBA champions just because they beat a lowly Pistons team by 16 points in their first preseason game on Tuesday night.
With that said, the Heat did pass their first meaningful basketball test together, with flying colors. Despite an injury that knocked Dwyane Wade out of the game after three minutes, the Heat, led by none other than LeBron James, kept right on rolling over the hapless Pistons.
By the second quarter, it had already become a double-digit blowout for the Heat, and the Pistons could never claw their way back into contention.
Let's review what we learned about the Heat, and why Jeff Van Gundy may have been smarter than anyone gave him credit for earlier this summer…
LeBron James as the Point Guard
When Dwyane Wade left the game three minutes in with a hamstring injury, you could hear the collective gasp of Miami fans anywhere in the United States. Then LeBron James became LeBron James.
LBJ dazzled in the first quarter, scoring 12 points in 12 minutes on 6-of-9 shooting. He fed Chris Bosh for alley-oops, drained mid-range jumpers unconscionably, and looked exactly like the two-time defending MVP that he is, not the shell of a player that he became at the end of the Boston series last year.
While we heard rumors that LBJ could run the point at times, Coach Erik Spoelstra gave the NBA world a taste of the LBJ-at-point medicine, and NBA world, watch yourself.
James was already unguardable as a small forward, where he'd go up against guys his own size; what's a guy like Chris Paul to do against James defensively?
With seven minutes left in the second quarter, the Pistons were shooting 5-16 as a team.
All those questions about the Heat's interior defense and their lack of quality big men? We forgot one thing: Someone needs to be able to feed the ball to those bigs. And Miami's perimeter defense is already second-to-none.
This shouldn't come as a huge surprise—after all, both James and Wade are regarded as some of the best defenders for their respective positions. Still, James' and Wade's enthusiasm for defense clearly has become contagious around Miami, as the Heat forced 17 turnovers in the game, and forced multiple shot clock violations in the first half.
They may not have an answer for Dwight Howard, but Vince Carter, Jameer Nelson, and Rashard Lewis should be prepared for a dogfight when they encounter the Heat.
Oh yeah…and the bigs weren't even that bad. The Heat won the rebounding battle, 39-32.
How will James and Wade co-exist this season, we all wondered? Oh yeah. They're both unstoppable on their own. How do you think they'll co-exist this season?
While Wade went out with an injury three minutes into the game, his injury actually demonstrated one of the most terrifying aspects of the Heat…an injury to a star player doesn't stop them. Think about it—how many other teams could see a 25ppg scorer get knocked out three minutes into the game and still steamroll?
The team obviously hasn't been together for very long, but that hasn't prevented them from learning how to find each other on the court for easy buckets. The Heat finished with 23 assists on 42 made baskets, led by Mario Chalmers' 7-assist night.
The Heat may not know an extensive playbook yet, but truth be told, they don't need to. They know the pick-and-roll and screen-and-roll, they know a few other basic plays, and their players are talented enough to run that to their heart's desire. So far, so good.
Home Court Advantage
Miami's never been seen as a "basketball town" in the way that Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia, or Los Angeles has. Then again, when the going gets good—see: the 2006 playoffs—the Heat fans come out in droves and go buckwild, creating a homecourt advantage matched by few others in the league.
It can't come as a surprise to know that Heat fans will be flocking to every Heat game imaginable this year. The fact that a reported 19,600 showed up to a preseason game—a preseason game!—is somewhat more shocking.
Truth be told, a number NBA franchises can't draw those types of numbers on most given nights. Can you imagine what a postseason crowd in Miami will be like if they're drawing nearly 20,000 for a preseason game?
While LeBron James was in Cleveland, the Q turned into one of the most raucous arenas in the NBA. It looks like Miami's well on their way to the same happening down in South Beach.
The Bench Didn't Let Up
One of the most encouraging signs for Coach Spoelstra had to be the play of the Heat's reserves. He knows what he'll be getting out of his Big Three on a nightly basis, but as true for every champion, the Heat will need role players to step up in key moments this year to succeed.
If he can expect 14 points and 13 rebounds from Udonis Haslem, 10 points and 7 assists from Mario Chalmers, and 14 points, 3 rebounds, and 6 assists between Mike Miller and James Jones, the Heat will be primed for a championship run.
James and Bosh looked extremely comfortable playing both with members of the first and second units, which should send up red flags in opponents' minds.
If Miami can keep one of the Bosh-James-Wade trio on court at all times and the offense can keep flowing efficiently, they could rise to superpower status even sooner than expected.