Winderman’s view: A must-win season-opening victory for Heat? In a way, yes
MIAMI – Observations and other notes of interest from Wednesday night’s 103-102 victory over the Detroit Pistons at Kaseya Center:
– Yes, there is no such thing as must-win in the first of 82 regular-season games.
– And yet based on what now follows, a three-game trip to Boston, Minnesota (on the second night of a back-to-back) and Milwaukee, this was needed.
– And necessary.
– Because it will be interesting to see how the Heat handle the Boston-Minnesota back-to-back when starting a trio of 30-somethings.
– As expected, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra opened with a lineup of Bam Adebayo, Kevin Love, Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Kyle Lowry.
– That after some camp suspense about whether Lowry would start or come off the bench, as he did during last season’s playoffs.
– “When he’s healthy, which he is right now, and he’s fit,” Spoelstra said pregame. “he’s going to find a way to impact the game and do all the stuff that I’ve admired about him for so many years.”
– Spoelstra also said of Lowry, “Kyle’s in a great place. So we’re talking about a highly decorated, proven All-Star at that position for so many years. He played his best basketball when it mattered the most, especially late in the postseason.”
– Even with Josh Richardson (foot) and Haywood Highsmith out, Spoelstra noted his team’s depth.
– “We feel like we have enough guys to play and fill in,” he said. “There’ll probably be a little bit of a bigger rotation than typical, but it’s also the beginning of the year, so that’s OK.”
– In addition to Richardson and Highsmith, Cole Swider was inactive.
– With Heat operating with a 14-player roster, they can have two-way players active for a total of 90 times. So that limit is now 88, with R.J. Hampton and Jamal Cain active on Wednesday night.
– The Pistons targeted the defense of Love early.
– And often.
– To his credit, Love compensated by converting 3-pointers.
– And again flashing his outlet-passing skills.
– Love’s second free throw gave him 3,500 for his career.
– The Pistons went with a starting lineup of Cade Cunningham, Killian Hayes, Ausar Thompson, Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren.
– With Udonis Haslem retired, Adebayo led the Heat’s pregame huddle.
– Caleb Martin played as the Heat’s first reserve.
– With Duncan Robinson, Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Thomas Bryant following.
– Eventually, Dru Smith also followed.
– That made it 10 deep without 2022 first-round pick Nikola Jovic.
– Bryant and Jaquez, in particular, provided energy.
– And Robinson providing 3-point conversions when needed most, with 10 points in the second period.
– Pistons coach Monty Williams addressed pregame the comparisons between Adebayo and Duren.
– “I can see comparisons, but most bigs in the league now are moving that way. Bigs are getting outlet passes now, they can bring it down the floor,” Williams said. “Jalen would look at that as a compliment, but he’s his own player too.”
– The Heat entered 19-16 all-time in season openers, 8-4 in their previous 12.
– The game was the first of 16 Wednesday games for the Heat this season, the day of the week they play most often this season.
– There was a pregame tribute and moment of silence for the offseason passing of Heat stats-crew director Jim Cox.
– In addition, there was a tribute to the memory of long-time Heat fan Jimmy Buffett after the first quarter.
– The Heat also illuminated American flags for U.S. hostages held in the Middle East.