Heat showed glimpses of team plan in preseason finale. Takeaways from win over Celtics

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The Miami Heat turned its preseason finale into a full-on dress rehearsal for the regular season.

Coach Erik Spoelstra played just nine players expected to be the core of the Heat’s rotation for the majority of Miami’s 121-100 win over the Boston Celtics on Friday at FTX Arena. The Heat finished the preseason 5-1, its lone loss coming on the road Thursday to the Atlanta Hawks with most of the team’s starters staying back in Miami in anticipation for Friday’s game.

Miami erased a 12-point deficit late in the first quarter, led by four at halftime, extended the advantage to six by the end of the third quarter and outscored the Celtics 34-19 in the fourth quarter.

Here are five takeaways from Friday’s win:

The Heat’s projected starting lineup played together for just the second time this preseason. The only other time Bam Adebayo, P.J. Tucker, Duncan Robinson, Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler were on the court together during this six-game slate was Oct. 7.

The group certainly provided bright spots even though there were areas that need improvement.

Butler, playing in just his second game of the preseason, had a 25-point night that included a 10-for-11 showing from the free-throw line, a fadeaway jumper with 0.8 seconds left in the first half and a first-quarter three-pointer (yes, a Butler three-pointer).

“It felt great just to get out there and hoop as a whole,” Butler said. “Being out there with my guys is a lot of fun.”

Adebayo scored 17 points and added seven rebounds. This included dunks on back-to-back third-quarter possessions that broke a 74-74 tie and was part of a 15-6 Heat run to end the third quarter.

But there were noticeable signs the group still has room to build its chemistry. The five committed 17 turnovers, which resulted in 26 Celtics points.

The biggest adjustment the group needs to make between now and Thursday, according to Butler: “Realizing how fast you have to play with with Kyle as your point guard. I think we’ve got to get used to that. He’s always looking to pitch the ball ahead and get guys in the right spot. It’s incredible. It’s a blessing. You’ve got to be in really great shape to deal with what we call ‘Kyle Chaos.’”

Robinson scored eight points and Lowry added four points while Tucker was scoreless.

Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro (14) drives the ball in the second quarter against Boston Celtics Theo Pinson (38) at the FTX Arena in Miami on Friday, October 15, 2021.
Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro (14) drives the ball in the second quarter against Boston Celtics Theo Pinson (38) at the FTX Arena in Miami on Friday, October 15, 2021.

Tyler Herro’s dominant preseason continued. Herro scored a game-high 29 points on 10-of-15 shooting (including 5 of 6 from three-point range) with six rebounds and four assists off the bench Friday.

In five preseason games, Herro averaged 22.4 points while making 51.3 percent of his shots from the field (41 for 80).

According to ESPN Stats, Herro’s points per game average is the highest in a single preseason by a Heat player since LeBron James in 2011.

“It feels good,” Herro said of his preseason performance. “A lot of hard work this offseason and just, we’ve got a great group of guys that just feed life into me. They’re really putting me in positions to be successful, whether it’s the coaching staff or players around me. Just continuing to work one day at a time.”

The rest of the rotation appears to have been established. Outside of Herro, Markieff Morris, Dewayne Dedmon and Max Strus were the only Heat reserves who saw action with the regulars on Friday night. Morris scored 11 points while being on the court for 20:47, and Strus added 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting in 18:59 of playing time.

Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin, KZ Okpala, Omer Yurtseven and Marcus Garrett were the main five on the floor for the final seven minutes.

Now, the real games begin. A 5-1 preseason record is solid, but none of it matters now.

The regular season begins Thursday, with the Heat hosting the Milwaukee Bucks to begin the 2021-2022 season.

“Everybody’s realizing how real it gets now, how these games start to count,” Jimmy Butler said. “It’s time to show what we’re capable of.”

The Heat waives four players shortly after the preseason finale. The Heat has waived Micah Potter, Javonte Smart, Dru Smith and D.J. Stewart ahead of Saturday’s 5 p.m. deadline for NBA teams to set their regular-season roster. As Exhibit 10 players, they are on track to move to the Heat’s G League affiliate in Sioux Falls.

“This is a transition,” Spoelstra said. “This was always the plan that we’re going to continue to develop them. Our Skyforce program is really a direct pipeline for our player development.”