Heat Beat: All's good after opening night
Unexpected highlights, interesting rotations part of win over Washington
MIAMI – Well, that was fun. The Heat's season opening victory provided some unexpected highlights and interesting rotations. I promised myself I wouldn't draw too many conclusions about one game, win or lose, but I think we still saw some things that were encouraging.
Let's start with Chris Bosh. He wanted that number one role again and boy did he prove it. Bosh exploded for 26 points and 15 rebounds. That's something he'd never done before in a Heat uniform. While it's hard to expect him to match that every night, I think he showed why maybe he was a little under appreciated over the last four years.
Next up, Norris Cole as the starter. Another big storyline in training camp was Cole taking over the starting point guard job from Mario Chalmers. He responded with a career high 23 point night. Like Bosh, don't expect that every single night, but I think more important than stats was the attitude he played with. Cole took shots, made passes and drove to the basket with total confidence and control. He played like a man who had been waiting for his chance and wasn't about to let it go to waste.
Dwyane Wade had a scare in the 3rd quarter when he went down with a calf contusion, but his return and finish was encouraging. He closed out the 4th with 12 points in the final key stretch and 21 points for the game. Wade had some tentative moments in the first half and ball handling issues, but once he came back, he seemed to play with more control. The biggest story was any potential injury concern was avoided.
Now to the man who stole the show; James Ennis. His final stat-line may not be that impressive, 5 points in 15 minutes, but it was his massive dunk over Rasual Butler that changed the game.
Miami was leading by just 4 in the 4th quarter when Ennis took a pass from Chalmers in stride and full speed. He never hesitated and went right to the basket, took off early and threw down a slam right over Butler. The basket and foul gave the Heat a 7 point lead, but more importantly, it gave the arena that feeling of excitement we'd come so grown to seeing over previous seasons.
Ennis is a player teammates and coaches raved about all preseason. Not necessarily about his skill set at the moment, but his raw athletic ability and potential. Heat assistant Juwan Howard told me a couple of weeks ago that sometimes Ennis just gives you that "WOW" moment. Well, that's exactly what he had in the opener.
Rotation wise it was clear that Erik Spoesltra does have some tough decisions ahead with mixing and matching. Because of injuries to Danny Granger (minor), and Josh McRoberts (likely out another week or two), Spo went with young guys early and some line-up's we didn't expect to see.
As the season progresses, Miami must get more from Shawne Williams. The combo of having Ennis and fellow rookie Shabazz Napier in key situations at the same time is likely something that won't happen often with a full compliment of health. Then again, that combo did provide some sparks.
I know Heat fans are high on Ennis, especially after that dunk, but I still believe Granger needs to give them quality minutes to have success. Ennis works better as a spark right now, in my opinion, and not someone you count on each night.
Again, it needs to be pointed out this was just one game, and the Wizards were also short-handed without some key players in the line-up. The Heat will have some growing pains ahead.
But, the opener was a refreshing way to start a season of uncertainty. While no real tough questions were answered, one thing did seem to be clear. This Heat team can still be fun to watch, despite the departure of one electrifying player.
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