With LeBron James out for maintenance, it was up for Dwyane Wade to lead the Miami Heat in their NBA Finals rematch on far less serious conditions, enjoying a chance to show he’s not as old or banged up as he’s made out to be at times, and proving that it’s going to be a much better season for him individually than some might suggest it’ll be.
Wade finished with 25 points, 7 assists and 3 steals on only 27 minutes of play, hitting 71% of his field goal attempts, leading the Miami Heat to a 121-96 preseason win over the San Antonio Spurs. Showing off his quicker moves compared to last season’s finals series, Wade embarrassed Tim Duncan with a smooth Euro-step layup that left Duncan searching in the wrong direction.
James being out was another great opportunity for James Jones, who will undoubtedly have a bigger role to play this season, especially now that Mike Miller is gone, scoring 18 points by hitting six three-pointers in what should be a welcomed addition to the rotation of the Heat, who love them some three-point shooters and spacing the floor. Jones averaged only 5.8 minutes a night last season, playing in 38 games.
There was also Chris Bosh with 17 points, showing that his lack of scoring last season against the Spurs in the Finals series isn’t something that’s going to carry over with him for the preseason at least, and hopefully not at all next year. However, with games of little importance, it’s hard to get out a serious indication.
The Spurs didn’t keep their starters on for long as Duncan and Tony Parker had a -25 during their 20 minutes on the floor, With Kawhi Leonard being the only impressive member of the starting five, scoring 17 points on only 12 minutes of game time, indicating that this season might be another step forward for him in the scoring pie of the Spurs, and another step towards becoming a legitimate superstar in this league.
Despite the actual game, the most interesting aspect was the rematch of the NBA finals and the memories/emotions it brought up. Gregg Popovich said coming back to Miami didn’t bring up anything for him, because he’s already watched the tape of those games (6 and 7), and has learned what he can from them, although he also did dream of LeBron James during one night and his performances during the series.
We have a practice, we’ve done it every year I’ve been there, we take the coaches on a retreat in September and we watch film for four days. And we begin with whatever team we ended with the year before, whether the first round or the finals or you won or you lost or whatever, and we go through that tape. So we took seven hours and went through Game 6, we took six hours and went through Game 7.
If there’s one thing to take from last year’s finals, it’s that games, series and legacies can be defined by one bounce of the ball to either direction, depending on the hands they land in. It went right for James on two consecutive games, the most important of all, but also he knows that it might have ended very differently.