BOSTON – The Eastern Conference finals has been a series of small lineups. The Boston Celtics start both Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett, but have played about half of their minutes with just one big man on the floor. And without Chris Bosh, the Miami Heat are playing small all the time, with LeBron James and Shane Battier at the forward spots.
To start the fourth quarter of Game 3 on Friday, the Heat went even smaller than usual, playing James at the five, with Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Mike Miller and Battier also on the floor. It was somewhat of a desperate move, because the Heat were down 22 at the time.
It seemed to work though. Over the next 10 minutes, the Heat’s “micro” lineup outscored the Celtics 26-14, shooting 11-for-18 from the floor and 3-for-5 from 3-point range.
So should Heat coach Erik Spoelstra go back to the “micro” lineup in Game 4 on Sunday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)?
Maybe. Spoelstra spoke on Saturday as if he would try that lineup again, but he also knows that you can’t take too much out of such a small sample size.
“I don’t know how much of that was real or not real or circumstantial,” he said Saturday. “We were playing out of desperation.”
Furthermore, that lineup was most successful with Garnett on the bench. KG started the fourth quarter, but came out with 6:14 left and the Celtics still up 19. Then the Heat scored 10 points on their next four possessions, and less than a minute after that stretch, Garnett was back in the game.
The micro lineup was a plus-8 in 2:37 with Garnett on the bench and a plus-4 in 7:44 with Garnett on the floor. And in that 7:44, the Celtics grabbed five offensive rebounds.
So if Spoelstra chooses to go back to it in Game 4, he might want to do it when Garnett gets his rest, when the Heat have a greater quickness advantage, and when rebounding might not be such a big issue.