Heat’s Season Debut Delivers Heart-Pounding Win Over Resilient Pistons

Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s season-opening 103-102 win over the Detroit Pistons (0-1) on Wednesday night at Kaseya Center. Next up for the Heat (1-0) is a three-game trip that begins with an Eastern Conference finals rematch against the Boston Celtics on Friday:

The experienced Heat took advantage of the Pistons’ youth in the first half. But the game still came down to the final seconds just like many of the Heat’s games did last season.

While the Heat returned a large chunk of last season’s roster that made it all the way to the NBA Finals, the Pistons started one 19-year-old, one 20-year-old and three 22-year-olds after finishing last regular season with the NBA’s worst record at 17-65.

The Heat’s experience and the Pistons’ inexperience were on display in the first half. Detroit played too fast sometimes, bit on numerous Heat pump fakes other times and finished with too many empty possessions.

Miami outscored Detroit 25-9 in points off turnovers in the win with the help of 17 turnovers from the Pistons, which proved to be the difference in the one-point game.

“That’s a big part of our identity is the activity and the energy level, the effort levels that you commit to every single possession,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Heat’s ability to force turnovers. “We want to be disruptive, we want to get teams out of their comfort zone and it takes a great commitment and energy commitment to do that night in and night out.”

The first half was especially rough for the Pistons, as the Heat scored 21 points off 15 turnovers in the first two quarters to enter halftime with a 58-47 lead. The Heat recorded 10 steals in the first half.
Takeaways from Miami Heat's comeback win over Detroit Pistons | Miami Herald

But the Pistons didn’t commit a turnover in the third quarter and pulled within six points late in the period. Detroit ended up winning the third quarter 28-25 to enter the final quarter trailing by eight points.

The Heat then opened the fourth period with an 11-0 run to pull ahead by 19 points. But the young and feisty Pistons pushed back, responding with a 14-0 run to cut the deficit to five with 6:24 to play.

The Pistons eventually cut the deficit to one with 1:44 left in the fourth quarter, turning a 19-point Heat lead into a clutch game (one that has a margin of five points or fewer inside the final five minutes of the fourth quarter). Miami played the second-most clutch games in the NBA last regular season with 54 such games.

But the Pistons could never take the lead, missing their final four shots of the game. Detroit guard , who scored a game-high 30 points, missed the final shot of the night — a three-pointer with 0.6 seconds to play that would have given the Pistons the lead.
Adebayo leads way as Heat hold off Pistons in NBA opener

The Heat also closed with a 26-15 edge in free-throw attempts to outscore the Pistons 21-9 from the foul line.

Behind a 16-point advantage in points off turnovers and 12-point advantage at the foul line, the Heat escaped with the victory despite shooting just 40.2 percent from the field in the contest during an otherwise underwhelming offensive performance.

The Heat had 13 of its shots blocked and closed with a half-court offensive rating of 83.3 points scored per 100 possessions that would have ranked last in the NBA last regular season. Miami also totaled just 20 points on 8-of-22 (36.4 percent) shooting from the field and 1-of-5 (20 percent) shooting on threes in the fourth quarter, as Detroit won the second half 55-45 to make it a close game.

“If you can just guarantee that we would get a win, I’ll take that 10 times out of 10, for sure,” Spoelstra said of another clutch-game experience. “To be able to manage through all the emotions and all the late-game situations, that’s going to clean up our package very quickly.”

Heat center finished with a team-high 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field and 8-of-10 shooting from the foul line, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 32 minutes.

“At the end of the day, a win is a win,” Adebayo said. “But we do want to correct what went wrong and figure out how we can stop this before we get too far into the season. We don’t want to be in the middle of December talking about how we’re blowing 19-point leads. The biggest thing for us is to correct it now.”

added 19 points on 6-of-18 shooting from the field, 13 rebounds and four assists for Miami.

Heat guard scored 16 points on 7-of-24 shooting. He started 2 of 11 from the field and had six of his shots blocked on Wednesday.

Love finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double.

“In hindsight, we played so many close games last year,” Herro said. “Hopefully this isn’t the start of another season where we’re going to be playing a clutch game every night. But it is fun being in those games.”

said during training camp he expected to be the Heat’s starting point guard. Lowry’s expectation became reality on Wednesday.

After closing last season in a bench role, Lowry opened this season in the Heat’s starting lineup alongside Herro, Butler, Kevin Love and Adebayo.

This five-man group did not play at all together last season but was a positive in its minutes on Wednesday, outscoring the Pistons by one point in 19 minutes together.

With this lineup on the court, Miami outscored Detroit 19-14 in the first 5:37 of the game and again outscored Detroit 12-10 in the first 5:53 of the second half.
Kyle Lowry confounds in Miami Heat season-opening win

Lowry, who played off the bench last season for the first time since the 2012-13 campaign with the Toronto Raptors a decade ago, attempted just one shot in his first start of the season. The 37-year-old veteran finished with zero points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals in 32 minutes.

It marked the third game since Lowry joined the Heat and the fifth game in Lowry’s NBA career that he finished scoreless when playing more than 30 minutes.

“He’s a winner, so he’s going to compete,” Spoelstra said when asked about Lowry before Wednesday’s opener. “When he’s healthy, which he is right now, when he’s fit, he’s going to find a way to impact the game and do all the stuff I’ve admired about him for so many years.”

The Heat’s bench rotation for the opener included some familiar faces and some new faces.

With (left foot discomfort) and Haywood Highsmith (left knee sprain) unavailable, the Heat was forced to lean on its depth in the first game of the regular season.

The Heat’s five-man bench rotation on Wednesday included returning players Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson, and new additions Thomas Bryant, and Dru Smith.

Those five reserves combined to total 33 points.

One of the best stretches of the game for the Heat’s bench unit came in the second quarter, when a lineup of Jaquez, Smith, Bryant, Robinson and Herro stretched the Heat’s lead from two to nine points during a two-minute span early in the period.

A bench lineup of Jaquez, Bryant, Robinson, Martin and Herro then opened the fourth quarter on an 11-0 run to extend the Heat’s lead to 19 before the Pistons rallied.

Robinson scored 15 points off the bench with the help of 3-of-5 shooting on threes in 22 minutes.

Jaquez contributed six points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals in his first NBA game in 13 minutes while on a minutes restriction after suffering a groin injury during the preseason.

Bryant added eight points, six rebounds and three assists in 16 minutes.

Martin finished with two points on 1-of-7 shooting from the field, three rebounds, one assist and one steal in 20 minutes.

Smith ended the night with two points and one assist in nine minutes.

The list of available Heat players who were active but did not play on Wednesday included , RJ Hampton, Nikola Jovic and .

Three Heat players were listed as inactive for the season opener.

Richardson and Highsmith were made inactive because of their injuries. The Heat’s other inactive player was , who is on a two-way contract.

Swider was healthy and available, but the Heat put him on the inactive list to manage the game clock on his two-way contract.

Two-way contracts, which pay half the NBA rookie minimum and do not count toward the salary cap or luxury tax, allow for players to be on their NBA team’s active list for as many as 50 regular-season games.

But that two-way clock is shortened for the Heat because of its current roster situation, with only 14 players on standard contracts.

At the maximum 15 players on standard deals, the Heat would be allowed to have two-way contract players on the active list for 150 total games during the regular season (50-game limit per player).
Miami Heat hold off Detroit Pistons in season opener

But the Heat is currently only allowed to have two-way contract players on the active list for 90 total games during the regular season because it has fewer than 15 players on standard deals.

While Swider was inactive, the Heat’s two other two-way contract players, Cain and Hampton, were on the active roster for the opener. So that clock is now down to 88 games.

If the Heat adds a 15th player to a standard contract this season, the clock will jump back up to 150 total games (148 games after the opener).

Next up for the Heat: a lot of time on the road.

Following Wednesday’s season opener, the Heat hits the road for 12 of the next 16 games. If that’s not challenging enough, eight of those 12 road games come against teams that made the playoffs last season.

This stretch begins with a tough trip that includes an East finals rematch against the Celtics on Friday, a matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves on the second night of a back-to-back on Saturday and then a showdown against Giannis Antetokounmpo and against the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday.

“We’re looking forward to getting on this road trip and getting this season going,” Spoelstra said.

The Heat opened last regular season with a 7-11 record. Miami is hoping to avoid another slow start this season, but the schedule won’t help matters.

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