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Thoughts and Impressions from the Miami Heat’s Season Opening Victory over the Detroit Pistons



The Miami Heat secured a narrow 103-102 victory over the Detroit Pistons (0-1) at the Kaseya Center in their season opener on Wednesday. The Heat (1-0) now brace themselves for a challenging three-game road trip, commencing with a rematch against the Boston Celtics, their 2023 Eastern Conference finals foes. The experienced Heat capitalized on the youth of the Pistons during the first half, but the game’s outcome hung in the balance, echoing the close contests that marked the Heat’s previous season.

“I loved it,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I loved the emotion tonight. I loved the energy. A lot of good things.”

While the Heat retained a substantial portion of last season’s roster, a group that had reached the NBA Finals, the Pistons fielded a starting lineup featuring one 19-year-old, one 20-year-old, and three 22-year-olds, fresh from a dismal regular season that saw them finish with the NBA’s worst record at 17-65. This stark contrast in experience was glaring during the first half. Detroit’s haste, susceptibility to Heat pump fakes, and frequent empty possessions underscored their inexperience. The Heat capitalized on this, amassing a 25-9 lead in points off turnovers with the Pistons committing 17 turnovers, ultimately proving decisive in the one-point victory.

Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra emphasized the team’s identity, characterized by their activity, energy, and relentless effort on every possession.

“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.” – Erik Spoelstra

The Heat maintained their lead throughout most of the game, and that lead proved crucial in securing the victory. At halftime, Miami had a significant 21-4 advantage in points off turnovers, even reaching 21-0 at one point in the first half. Additionally, they led 9-0 in fast-break points and held a 30-12 lead in points scored in the paint.

However, despite their dominance, the Heat’s lead was only 58-47 at halftime, and the credit for keeping the Pistons in the game went to Cade Cunningham.

Cunningham displayed brilliance, shooting 8 of 11 for 18 points in the first two quarters. Nevertheless, his teammates struggled, managing only 10 of 30 from the field in the opening half. In contrast, Miami demonstrated better balance with three players in double figures and five players contributing at least seven points before halftime.

The Heat’s defense was particularly stout, racking up ten steals by halftime. However, the Pistons managed to eliminate turnovers in the third period, reducing the deficit to six points towards the end of the period. Detroit won the third quarter 28-25, entering the final quarter trailing by eight points.

The Heat opened the fourth quarter with an 11-0 run, extending their lead to 19 points with 9:07 left, but would go scoreless in the final 2:57. The spirited Pistons, despite their youth, launched a 14-0 run to narrow the gap to five points with 6:24 remaining. The Pistons, defying the odds, trimmed the deficit to one point with just 1:44 left in the fourth quarter, transforming a 19-point Heat advantage into a clutch game. The Heat played 54 clutch games during the 2022-23 regular season, the second-most in the NBA.

Miami had a 14-8 record in games decided by three points or less last season, which increased to 16-9 when considering playoff games. This season, they start with a 1-0 record in games decided by three points or less.

“A win is a win, as Spo would tell you, as I would tell you, as anybody in that locker room would tell you.” – Jimmy Butler

Despite the Pistons’ spirited resurgence, they couldn’t seize the lead, as they missed their final four shots of the game. Cade Cunningham missed a potential game-winning three-pointer with just 0.6 seconds remaining.

Cunningham contributed 30 points and nine assists for the Pistons. Jalen Duren recorded 17 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, and four blocks for Detroit. Isaiah Stewart added 14 points and 14 rebounds, while Killian Hayes scored 10.

The Heat also dominated from the free-throw line, finishing with a 26-15 advantage in attempts and outscoring the Pistons 21-9 in free throws. This, coupled with a 16-point edge in points off turnovers and a 12-point advantage in free throws, allowed the Heat to escape with a win despite shooting a mere 40.2 percent from the field in what was an otherwise underwhelming offensive performance.

The Heat had 13 of their shots blocked and posted a half-court offensive rating of 83.3 points scored per 100 possessions, a figure that would have ranked them last in the NBA in the previous regular season. In the fourth quarter, Miami managed to score just 20 points on 8-of-22 (36.4 percent) shooting from the field and 1-of-5 (20 percent) from beyond the arc. Detroit won the second half 55-45, making the game much closer. Coach Spoelstra, despite the offensive struggles, expressed satisfaction with the win, stating, “If you can just guarantee that we would get a win, I’ll take that 10 times out of 10, for sure. 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.”

Bam Adebayo led Miami with 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field and 8-of-10 shooting from the foul line. He also contributed eight rebounds, three assists, and two blocks in 32 minutes. Adebayo reflected on the win, saying, “At the end of the day, a win is a win. 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.”

Jimmy Butler added 19 points, securing 13 rebounds and four assists for the Heat. Tyler Herro, the Heat’s guard, contributed 16 points, though he struggled with his shooting, going 7-of-24 from the field. Kevin Love posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

“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.” – Tyler Herro on the Heat’s track record of playing in close games.

Kyle Lowry, who had previously expressed his expectation to become the Heat’s starting point guard, realized this vision on Wednesday. Having spent Miami’s 2023 playoff run in a bench role, Lowry was slotted into the starting lineup alongside Herro, Butler, Love, and Adebayo on Wednesday night. This group had not played together at all during the 2022-23 season, but they proved effective.

With this lineup, the Heat took an early lead, outscoring Detroit 19-14 in the opening five minutes of the game. Lowry, however, attempted just one shot in his first start of the season. Despite being scoreless, he contributed two rebounds, two assists, and two steals in 32 minutes.

Lowry’s scoreless game was a rare occurrence, marking the third game since joining the Heat and the fifth game in his NBA career in which he played over 30 minutes without scoring. Coach Spoelstra praised Lowry’s competitive spirit and ability to impact the game, affirming that Lowry would find ways to contribute when healthy.

Miami had to rely on its bench rotation against Detroit, as Josh Richardson was sidelined with left foot discomfort and Haywood Highsmith with a left knee sprain. The five-man bench rotation included familiar faces like Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson, alongside newcomers Thomas Bryant, rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr., and Dru Smith. These reserves combined to score 33 points.

A standout performance from the bench unit occurred in the second quarter, when a lineup consisting of Jaquez Jr., Smith, Bryant, Robinson, and Herro extended the Heat’s lead from two to nine points in just two minutes early in the period. Additionally, a bench lineup of Jaquez Jr., Bryant, Robinson, Martin, and Herro launched the fourth quarter with an 11-0 run, boosting the Heat’s lead to 19 points before the Pistons launched their comeback. Robinson shone off the bench, tallying 15 points, while shooting 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, in 22 minutes. Jaquez Jr. made a positive impact in his regular season debut, contributing six points, two rebounds, two assists, and two steals in 13 minutes while adhering to a minutes restriction after a preseason injury. Bryant added eight points, six rebounds, and three assists in 16 minutes. Martin finished with two points, three rebounds, one assist, and one steal in 20 minutes, while Smith contributed two points and one assist in nine minutes.

In the sold-out crowd, notable figures like Luis Arraez, the 2023 batting champion from the Miami Marlins, and actor Sylvester Stallone were present. The night was marked by a pair of tributes: one held in-game to honor the longtime Heat season-ticket holder, the singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett, and the other was a pregame moment dedicated to the memory of longtime Heat stat crew chief Jim Cox, both of whom passed away in September.

The victory improved Miami’s all-time record in season openers to 20-16, with a 10-6 record under the guidance of head coach Erik Spoelstra. The Heat’s upcoming schedule is predominantly road-based, with 12 of the next 16 games to be played away from home. Notably, eight of these 12 road games are against playoff teams from the 2022-23 season. Despite the daunting schedule, Coach Spoelstra and the Heat are enthusiastic about commencing their road trip and kicking off the new season.



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