For the first time since the 2003 NBA Draft, the Miami Heat take the floor without Dwyane Wade. This edition of the Heat is decidedly unfamiliar, but tonight’s game against the Magic proved the Heat have the tools to move forward in the absence of the Big Three but that there’s still much work to do before becoming contenders.
The Heat’s first foray into the 2016-2017 season resulted in a win. The emphasis of tonight’s game against their intrastate rivals was pushing the pace to create opportunities. The Heat were successful because their second half effort emphasized their interior advantages. Stand out players include Hassan Whiteside with 18 points and 14 rebounds, Goran Dragic contributed 16 points and 6 assists while Justise Winslow chipped in with 15 points.
The game itself was a tale of two halves. The first half had the Heat fighting themselves offensively while containing Orlando on the opposite end. The defensive effort meant they went into the half down three. The second half is where Whiteside shined. Exploiting his advantage on the interior, he imposed his will on the game and allowed the Heat to get in a rhythm. The Heat finished the third quarter outscoring the Magic by 14.
During the fourth quarter, it was more of the same with defense and rebounding carrying the day. Willie Reed and Tyler Johnson’s contributions of six rebounds each furthered Miami’s advantage and spoiled Frank Vogel’s debut as Orlando’s head coach.
Winslow provided steady support to the Heat’s effort by grabbing eight boards and imposed himself on the defensive end… Dion Waiters was abysmal from the field on 4-13 shooting after being inserted in the starting lineup… Though Luke Babbitt started, the bulk of the minutes at power forward went to Reed and James Johnson
Next up for the Heat is their first home game where Dwyane Wade is a member of another team. The Heat welcome the Hornets in a rematch for last year’s first round playoff matchup.
Before the action started, the Magic paid tribute to the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting. The moving ceremony was a stark reminder of the paradox of sport – these games are trivial and yet as Terence Mann declared in Field of Dreams our one constant is baseball – or in this case, basketball. The Heat locked arms during a beautiful rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” by an Orlando police officer.