We were there for a rare start-to-finish view of the Heat's first dress rehearsal for the Tuesday preseason opener against Detroit. We present five reflections from Friday's scrimmage.
1. Big 3 Chemistry - There are still plenty of kinks to work out between Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. But they certainly will enjoy luxuries they've never experienced before now that they're playing for the same team. After spending the first half split apart, Bosh, James and Wade were in the red team's starting lineup for the second half of Friday's scrimmage. That red team either scored or got to the free-throw line on at least 60 percent of its possessions when Wade, James and Bosh were on the floor. That's huge. When Wade wasn't driving to the line and drawing fouls, Bosh was stroking his baseline, turnaround jumper. At one point, he scored on that move four times in five possessions. James was allowed to play free safety on defense, and seemed to be guarding three guys at a time.
2. LeBron bests Wade again - James got the upper hand on Wade when they anchored different squads in the first half of the scrimmage. James' white team built an early double-digit lead in the first half and was up by about 20 at one point before closing out with a 49-34 victory. James' squad has been getting the best of Wade's teams for most of the week. LeBron's playmaking ability is as good as advertised. His passing might be his best skillset, and that's saying a lot considering all he can do on both ends of the court. But it was Wade who made the play of the night when he banked in a lefty hook from halfcourt after James fouled him by grabbing his right arm. The play didn't count because a time-out was called moments earlier. But it was still the play of the week.
3. Starting 5 set - That might not be the case just yet. But the red team that opened the second half consisted of Pat Beverley at point guard, Wade at shooting guard, James at small forward, Bosh at power forward and Joel Anthony at center. It's pretty safe to assume that four of those five will be in the starting lineup when the preseason opens on Tuesday. Obviously, Beverley, who has been stellar on the defensive end in workouts, won't be the Heat's starting point guard. He was in that role Friday because Mario Chalmers was held out of the second half of the scrimmage, perhaps as a precaution to prevent more wear and tear as he works his way back from that high ankle sprain.
4. Bench Boost - The fact that the Big Red team couldn't exactly pull completely away from the white team of reserves says one of two things. Either Bosh, James and Wade are still weeks away from working out some of the chemistry kinks. Or, the bench might be even better than many people believe. James Jones, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Carlos Arroyo, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller started for the white team. Miller eventually was traded midway through the second half to the red team. That allowed Haslem to be a lot more aggressive offensively than normal. James Jones also looked really good and knocked down shots to keep the game competitive. James took advantage of his opportunities with Eddie House sidelined with shoulder soreness.
5. Riddle in the Middle - The Heat still does not have a legitimate low-post, offensive threat at center. There's size, rebounding and shot-blocking. But not necessarily all at the same time. Big Z certainly was a crowd favorite among the military fan base. He also knocked down a few shots, and drew loud cheers and chants after every positive move he made. Joel Anthony was active and altering shots at the rim. And Jamaal Magloire was an enforcer in the middle. Just don't ask him to shoot free throws. The Heat might prove to be dynamic enough at the other four spots to overcome some shortcomings at center. Rookie Dexter Pittman might be the best back-to-the-basket option at the position, but will he get an opportunity for meaningful minutes as the fourth center in the rotation? Not likely.