MIAMI -- LeBron James might have sat out Saturday’s game, but he was on his feet cheering on the reserve corps while it bested the Spurs down the stretch 104-101.
Here are five takeaways from the Heat’s win.
1. Dwyane Wade is back.
With the reigning MVP taking the day off, Wade got every opportunity to hush any doubt that he’ll be hampered by his left knee, which was operated on this offseason. He made the best of it. The first half of Saturday’s win might have been Wade’s most impressive half since Game 3 of the Indiana series. He finished with a ho-hum 13 points and five assists in 26 minutes, but he was vintage Wade.
He carved up the Spurs' defense by varying his tempo and exploiting the seams of the Spurs’ front line. And then there was the Euro-step. Barreling down the lane, Wade went directly at former teammate Eddy Curry in the paint, stepped right and sliced left past a stunned Curry for 2. It must be said that Curry is no Dwight Howard underneath, but it speaks volumes that Wade had both the confidence and wherewithal to victimize an opponent with his signature move.
2. Still waiting on Ray Allen.
Allen is in a 5-for-19 shooting slump over his past two games, which wouldn’t be alarming for your average NBA player, but this is Walter Ray Allen we’re talking about.
If Allen were forcing bad shots and hijacking the offense, it might be a little more concerning, but he has gotten good looks and the shots haven’t gone down. It happens.
The four turnovers in 25 minutes, however, should raise some eyebrows. Considering that Norris Cole has more turnovers than assists this preseason despite playing mostly with three of the 25 best players in the game, the Heat could use Allen as the backup point guard behind Mario Chalmers this season. Saturday’s outing certainly didn’t make Erik Spoelstra feel warm about the prospect of Allen taking over significant ballhandling duties. Alas, it’s preseason.
3. Rashard Lewis shows life.
Judging from his lackluster play in the previous four preseason games, Lewis probably was one of the most unlikely candidates to lead the Heat in scoring. With essentially an entire season off the court, Lewis had been out of rhythm and showing little in the way of basketball instinct, and it appeared as if he was running in mud out there.
That all changed Saturday. Lewis poured on 15 points with three 3-pointers and four steals on the defensive end (although he should be docked two steals for picking up two loose balls and then immediately throwing them away for turnovers). Lewis showed body control off the dribble and finally showed that his quirky release can lead to positive results. Whatever Wade and Lewis did to solidify their balky knees in the past couple of days, it’s working.
4. Mike Miller punching rotation ticket.
In the postgame news conference, Spoelstra admitted that he had no idea what to expect from Miller this season after seeing how much pain he endured during the 2011-12 season. There were times last season when Miller chugged energy drinks at the scorer’s table before checking in just to give his body the necessary jolt to perform.
But like Wade and Lewis, Miller looked like a whole new person in this win. He drained four of his five 3-point tries and collected five assists along with the way. However, the most important contribution might be his rebounding -- Miller grabbed five boards in 19 minutes in this one -- which will be desperately needed with Miami’s woefully undersized bench.
5. Josh Harrellson and Dexter Pittman vie for backup center duties.
So who’s going to replace Chris Bosh this season when he checks out of the game? Will the Heat really play the 6-foot-8 Udonis Haslem or scoring-challenged Joel Anthony against opposing 7-footers? They might have to, but Harrellson and Pittman stated their cases Saturday. Harrellson showed some touch inside as well as his shooting stroke on a clutch 3-pointer in the final minute to clinch the win.
And Pittman? He managed to play 17 minutes without fouling out, which is a plus. We didn’t get to see the Curry-versus-Pittman battle that many of those in attendance wanted to see (or at least all of press row), but Pittman had his best performance of the preseason by far. Maybe in his professional career. Alas, I repeat: It’s preseason.
One last note: If there are two roster spots to be won, this man's opinion is that Harrellson and Garrett Temple are in the lead.