Fast Breaks: Heat preseason debut
LeBron James and Chris Bosh put up impressive Heat debuts against the Pistons
Elite shooter Mike Miller is going to get loads of open looks in this offense
Miami may have position battles at center and point guard around the Big Three
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A packed house of 19,600. More than 125 media credentials issued. A nationally televised game. Did we mention this was the preseason? Indeed, the circus has officially opened in Miami, with the Heat demolishing Detroit 105-89 in their preseason opener.
LeBron James and Chris Bosh were as good as advertised. The beginning of the Big Three Era in Miami lasted all of three minutes -- that's how long Dwyane Wade played before tweaking his hamstring chasing Richard Hamilton around a screen -- but Miami's two new stars were more than enough to overwhelm Detroit. James (18 points, four assists, three rebounds) was explosive from the opening tip, initiating several one-man fast breaks that often ended with an open look for a teammate or a LeBron layup at the rim. James finished the game with just four assists, but he probably could have had four or five more if his teammates had cashed in on the defense collapsing on top of him.
Bosh (20 points, six rebounds) was even more impressive. It has been widely assumed that Bosh would have to make the most sacrifices in Miami, that the presence of Wade and James would reduce him to a third option. That might still happen when Wade comes back. But it's worth noting that the Heat made a concerted effort to get Bosh touches on the low post early. Bosh was extremely effective on the offensive glass and was a big target for James around the rim. Here's the truly scary part: that 15-foot jump shot, the one that is going to be wide, wide, WIDE open for Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Zydrunas Ilgauskas all season? Bosh (8-of-13 from the floor) was knocking that down effortlessly.
Mike Miller is going to enjoy this offense. It wasn't an especially productive day for Miller, who finished with six points on 2-of-5 shooting. But Tuesday night wasn't about the shots he took; it was about how open he was when he took them. Miller is an elite shooter, but for most of the game he had two or three feet between himself and a defender. Bosh, Wade and Haslem will get plenty of open looks, but the Heat will be able to put some distance between themselves and the opposition early if Miller gets the space he got against Detroit during the season.
The defense didn't rest. Miami's defensive numbers (43.3 percent shooting, 17 turnovers forced) were good but even better was the Heat's play in the first quarter, when they held Detroit's starters to 15 points. The Miami coaching staff has made defense the primary emphasis during training camp, with the understanding that good defense means more transition and more transition with this group means, well, a scoring bonanza. The Heat's 24-15 first quarter lead was indicative of just how effective that approach can be.
Who's in the middle? Erik Spoelstra told me last week that he wasn't the slightest bit concerned about who would get the minutes at center this season. He is probably no closer to making that determination now. Joel Anthony struggled through 20 foul-filled minutes, going scoreless and pulling down just one rebound. Anthony also bobbled a James pass in transition in the first quarter that cost Miami a layup. Rookie center Dexter Pittman (eight points, two rebounds) was slightly more effective with the second unit, but Spoelstra isn't going to trust that spot to a 308-pound second-round pick. The two other candidates for the job -- Ilgauskas and Jamaal Magloire -- didn't play against the Pistons but would be hard pressed to be less effective than Anthony.
There's a battle brewing for the starting point guard spot. Carlos Arroyo (10 points, one assist, zero turnovers) was effective as a starter, but Spoelstra had to like what he saw out of Mario Chalmers (10 points, seven assists, one turnover, plus-16 overall), who is still recovering from a nasty ankle sprain he suffered in July. Chalmers, you might recall, was handed the starting job in '09 only to lose it less than two months into the season after showing a lack of commitment to the position. Arroyo is certainly a capable playmaker, but Spoelstra would be thrilled if Chalmers, who has more diverse skills and a bigger upside, stepped up and seized the job.