OKLAHOMA CITY — Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Finals will tip off at 9:07 p.m. ET on Tuesday. About a half hour before that, we’ll learn who’s starting for the Miami Heat.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra changed his starting lineup twice in the conference finals, but did not start Chris Bosh in any of his three games back from injury. Spoelstra has said that Bosh is the Heat’s most important player, so one would think that Bosh will start Game 1.
If he does, Spoelstra could start him next to Udonis Haslem or Shane Battier. Or Spoelstra could stick with the starting lineup that has worked pretty well (with LeBron James, Battier and Haslem up front) and continue to bring Bosh off the bench.
That’s a lot for Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks to think about. But Brooks isn’t going to stress over it.
“It’s a little bit of a difference,” Brooks said after Thunder shootaround Tuesday morning, “but it doesn’t matter. Serge [Ibaka] is going to guard either one [Bosh or Battier], whoever they start at that four.
“We’ve been playing against different lineups all year. Serge has done a good job and I give him a lot of credit. We talked about, going into this season, him being able to guard stretch fours. And he’s done a great job at that. So put Battier out there, and I think Serge is in a good position to do a good job with him.”
Like the Heat, the Thunder have the ability to play big or small. Their two most-used lineups in the postseason have had Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins up front. But their next three most-used lineups have had just one big man on the floor. And those small lineups have been ridiculously good offensively, combining to score almost 125 points per 100 possessions over 129 playoff minutes.
“We have an ability to create baskets with movement when we have an extra ball-handler on the floor,” Brooks said. “But we feel confident going both ways. With our big lineups, we’ve won a lot of games. With our small lineups, we’ve won a lot of games. But I think the best way we win games is using a combination of them both.”
This series could very well be a 336-minute chess match. And the Heat may need to adjust to the Thunder lineups as much as OKC needs to adjust to theirs.
“We’ve got a good team and when we’re in tune defensively, I think no matter what they throw at us, we’ll be ready for it,” Thabo Sefolosha said. “I think the main thing will be to focus on us tonight. We know they’ve got a very talented team with a lot of players that can do different things on the floor. But I think the main thing will be to focus on what we do.”