When it doubt, defuse. That's the approach Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra took in the wake of starting Norris Cole over Mario Chalmers in Tuesday's overtime exhibition loss to the Orlando Magic at AmericanAirlines Arena.
"The way this team is built," Spoelstra said before Wednesday's overnight flight to Brazil for Saturday's exhibition against the Cleveland Cavaliers, "those two guys will probably have to play some minutes together. They started to do that last year and that was an effective combination for us. And they'll probably do that quite often this year."
There may be limited options otherwise, with only Shannon Brown currently setting up off the bench as a backup to starting shooting guard Dwyane Wade. Brown played an uneven 29 minutes in Tuesday's loss, after being limited to 5:53 in Saturday's preseason-opening loss to the New Orleans Pelicans in Louisville.
Otherwise at shooting guard, journeyman Reggie Williams and undrafted rookie Tyler Johnson have yet to appear in the Heat's first two exhibitions, although Spoelstra said he plans to use upcoming exhibitions to further evaluate his roster.
Wade started five games alongside Cole last season, with the Heat 3-2 in those games.
Wade viewed Tuesday as a productive step, with Cole closing with six assists and no turnovers in his 26 minutes.
"He did great. He was very solid," Wade said. "He did a good job of getting us into offense and ran the things we wanted to run.
"Hopefully he continues to progress."
After an uneven preseason debut Saturday, when he shot 2 of 7 for four points against the Pelicans, prime offseason free-agent acquisition Luol Deng broke out for 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting against the Magic.
"Offensively," Wade said, "he is one of those guys who complements everyone very well."
While Deng is known for his defensive disposition, Spoelstra said that sometimes sells short the veteran forward.
"We like his skill set," he said. "We think it fits our defensive mindset, but also his offensive ability we think is underrated."
Center Chris Bosh said, as with any newcomer, there will be an adjustment period when it comes to timing and familiarity. "He's still in the wrong spot sometimes," Bosh said, "but that's going to come with time. He's used to playing in Chicago and they have different principles."
Bosh said that to a degree everything is an adjustment this preseason.
"We still have a lot to get used to," he said. "It's the same system, but implementing different pieces. From the first game to [Tuesday] was a lot better."
The three thing
The Heat's 3-point shooting remains a work in progress, including 5 of 32 Tuesday, after shooting 5 of 15 in Saturday's preseason opener. Tuesday's waywardness from the 3-point line included 1 of 5 from Shawne Williams, Danny Granger and James Ennis, as well as 0 for 4 from Shabazz Napier and 1 of 4 from Chalmers.
"A lot of them were good shots," said Bosh, who missed all three of his 3-point attempts Tuesday. "Shooting 32 threes at a low percentage, that's not really what we want. We want to shoot 33 percent or better if we're shooting that many.
"We just have to continue to work, build and get those legs under us."
Granger, with a pair in the exhibition opener, is the lone Heat player to make more than one in a game this preseason.
Spoelstra continues to urge perspective with Ennis, who led the Heat with 17 points in the exhibition opener and then led Heat reserves with 14 Tuesday.
"We're open-minded to seeing where he can progress," he said of the swingman out of Long Beach State who was selected in the second round of the 2013 NBA Draft and spent last season in Australia and Puerto Rico. "We want to invest time in him. Does that translate into a guaranteed role? I don't know. We'll see."
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