The Miami Heat faced off against the Houston Rockets Sunday evening. Things seemed a little shaky for the Heat in the first half. They were shooting just 44% compared to the Rockets 54.5%, and the biggest red flag was the Heat had missed every 3-point attempt as opposed to the Rockets, who were shooting 50% from downtown. Another scary stat was that Chris Bosh scored no points in the entire first half.
At halftime, veteran leader Udonis Haslem decided to give his own pep talk, but it was more of a tongue lashing as explained by Erik Spoelstra. In fact, Spo loved every minute of it.
“It was absolutely awesome! Absolutely awesome! And that’s what leaders do to spark your team. By the time I had gotten in there he was already halfway through it, and there wasn’t much that was needed to be said after that.”
Maybe it was Haslem’s halftime speech that jolted the team, because the team on the hardwood in the second half was completely revived. The one shining spark throughout the entire game was the play by Hassan Whiteside. He was the only scorer in double digits after the first half was over. Last season Whiteside was always a shining star throughout the woes of injuries that plagued the team, and though the first home game was quiet for him, he wasn’t going to allow it to happen two home games in a row. Whiteside is young and proving his worth. Spoelstra admitted after the game that they were getting their offense from whoever was giving it, as opposed to running plays specifically for anyone in particular. However, after finishing 25-15, it’s a good idea for Spo to consider instances where he can run the offense through Whiteside. The Rockets had no answers for the alley-oop from Wade to Whiteside. He was the offensive and defensive juggernaut that kept the Heat from folding throughtout the game.
Again, the deep Heat bench proved to be overwhelming for the Rockets. While some Rockets starters played as much as 40 minutes, no Heat player finished over 35 minutes. In fact, the Heat bench played so well to finish the game, so Spo was able to let Deng, Bosh and Dragic all stay under 30 minutes of playing time. Even though Bosh was unable to get his first points until 4th quarter, the contribution from the Heat bench was able to compensate for his lack of offense in the first three quarters.
First round draft pick Justise Winslow had a solid second half. Winslow is peeling away at the onion to show Heat fans his worth little by little, and it’s ok if you’re excited about what is to come from Winslow. Young talent coming to South Florida may sometimes have difficulty adjusting to the Miami lifestyle, but Winslow seems to be able to keep his head under the radar and focused on the game. Instead of focusing the the summer league and preseason concerns, Winslow is learning from them and getting better. His confidence continues to grow.
Spoelstra had six players in double digits, with Whiteside leading everyone. Two of those double digit scorers were bench players, and Goran Dragic was just two points away from being in double digits himself. The only worry for the Heat is how they can overcome the hump of the slow start, which seems to happen more often than not. While finishing the game strong is always a positive, it is troubling that they seem to have the problem of playing from behind more often than not.
The Heat are 2-1, however, and while it is very early in the season, Spoelstra has to be pleased with the depth on the bench and the promise of Justise Winslow. Whiteside contributing double-doubles can’t hurt either and appears to be an emerging leader. Now it’s time to find consistency for the team so that they aren’t playing from behind trying to catch up. Once this happens, the Heat become much more formidable in the Eastern Conference than the experts predicted during preseason.