Miller, Allen help Heat remember identity
by Yannis Koutroupis, USA TODAY Sports
SAN ANTONIO — The Miami Heat momentarily got away from who they were.
They allowed the competition to dictate terms, moving to bigger lineups for the Eastern Conference finals and NBA Finals. And after getting outrebounded by 16 by the San Antonio Spurs in a Game 3 blowout loss, reverting back to small ball seemed unlikely.
But Heat coach Erik Spoelstra made the switch for the opening tip Thursday in Game 4, and it turned out to be exactly what the Heat needed to even the Finals at 2-2. Sharpshooting swingman Mike Miller took Udonis Haslem’s spot in the starting lineup; the league’s all-time leading three-point shooter, Ray Allen, played 33 minutes; and the Heat blasted the Spurs 109-93.
“We’ve seen that lineup often this year and this playoffs for sure,” Allen told USA TODAY Sports. “It definitely, even if we get shots, you see the other guys it puts them on their mind. It gives LeBron (James and Dwyane Wade) room to operate, gives (Chris Bosh) a little bit space. It does different things and sometimes you don’t see it but it does put something in the mind of the defenders.”
With Miller in the starting lineup, the Spurs quickly had to adjust. Spurs forward Tiago Splitter ended matched up on Wade on the Heat’s second offensive possession. Wade drew a shooting foul against him, and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich already had seen enough. He subbed in guard Gary Neal, and the Spurs spent the rest of the game adjusting to the Heat, not vice versa.
As a result, the Heat’s Big 3 had as much room to operate and attack the paint as they have all series long. They combined to score 85 points, their best playoff performance this year. The maligned rebounding from Game 3 was a non-factor, as Miami used a team effort to build a 41-36 edge on the boards.
“I think combination of us not playing with two bigs as much,” Spurs forward Tim Duncan said when asked about their inability to rebound like they did in Game 3. “Obviously their effort was there. Defensively they were really … [For more on Mike Miller, Ray Allen help Heat remember identity, click here.]