Miami Heat’s Udonis Haslem With Rare Start In Preseason Loss – South Florida Sun-Sentinel – South Florida Sun Sentinel

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ATLANTA — For an exhibition game, this was one for the ages for the Miami Heat.

In the starting lineup Thursday night was 41-year-old Udonis Haslem. Following behind off the bench were a group of undrafted neophytes soon to be ticketed for the G League.

Such is preseason life when Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry, Bam Adebayo and eight others are allowed to remain behind in Miami.

So while the Atlanta Hawks mostly played their regulars in what turned into their 127-92 victory at State Farm Arena, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra created a moment for his captain and then let the kids run the show one more time, as the perfect 4-0 start to the preseason came to an end.

Haslem’s night was limited to a pair of stints opening each half, his 13:25 five times as long as he played all of last season, when he made a single appearance. He closed 0 for 4 from the field, with one point, four rebounds, three assists, two blocks, a turnover and a foul.

Sparking the Heat bench were undrafted guard Javonte Smart, with 20 points, and  undrafted power forward Micah Potter, with 16 points and 16 rebounds.

As for those who will open the season with the Heat, Max Strus closed with 18 points (5 of 9 on threes) and nine rebounds, KZ Okpala with 10 points and seven rebounds, and Gabe Vincent with seven points and 10 assists.

Trae Young had 27 points and 15 assists for the Hawks.

Five Degrees of Heat from Thursday night’s exhibition:

1. Haslem time: Haslem not only was in action just five days after reporting to camp following the death of his father, but he was in the starting lineup, alongside Okpala, Strus, Vincent and Caleb Martin.

It was Haslem’s first start since he started the final regular-season game of the 2019-20 season, which was played in the Disney World quarantine bubble. The Heat were already locked into their playoff matchup against the Indiana Pacers going into that night.

Since the end of the 2014-15 season, Haslem, who has made 500 career regular-season starts, has started only two games, that 2020 game at Disney against the Pacers, and Dwyane Wade’s farewell game in 2019 in Brooklyn.

Thursday marked Haslem’s first preseason minutes since 2018.

Haslem made one appearance last season, playing 2:40 in the home finale against the Philadelphia 76ers before being ejected in a dustup with Dwight Howard.

2. Left behind: Hawks coach Nate McMillan took no issue with Spoelstra’s decision to leaving behind in Miami: Butler, Lowry, Adebayo, Dewayne Dedmon, Marcus Garrett, Tyler Herro, Markieff Morris, Victor Oladipo, Duncan Robinson, P.J. Tucker and Omer Yurtseven.

“Miami has worked on themselves and Coach Spoelstra felt that he could leave his guys home,” he said. “They’ve had a really good preseason.”

3. No proving ground: Spoelstra went in insisting it was not a night for his remaining players to try to prove themselves.

“It’s not like me trying to run 25 plays for one of these guys and see if I can get them a 40-point game,” he said. “That’s not how they’re going to play when everybody’s available, so I don’t know if that’s totally helpful. It’s about gaining more confidence in our system, our identity and playing their role well.”

With strides, Spoelstra said, already made this preseason by his neophytes.

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“Our young guys have looked really good this preseason because they’ve just concentrated on playing their role, impacting the game, impacting winning,” he said.

4. Result secondary: Spoelstra said the 4-0 preseason record the Heat took into the night hardly was a focus.

“It’s really been more about us trying to get more consistent, get more comfortable, get our conditioning in and play as many effective minutes as possible,” he said. “I haven’t talked about us trying to go undefeated.”

5. Dress rehearsal?: The Heat close out their six-game preseason with a 6:30 p.m. Friday game against the Boston Celtics at FTX Arena.

The Celtics will be without Jaylen Brown and Al Horford due to recent positive COVID tests, with Marcus Smart to serve a one-game team suspension and Payton Pritchard out with a broken nose.

With Butler and Yurtseven battling colds, the Heat might opt to maintain a degree of separation.