OKLAHOMA CITY — When you’re paying your top three players about $48 million a year, your roster is not going to have a lot of depth. Such is the issue with the Miami Heat.
In Game 7 of the conference finals, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra got away with basically playing just six guys. That was enough to outlast the similarly shallow Boston Celtics.
But the Oklahoma City Thunder are not the Celtics in any shape, form or fashion. They’re younger, faster and deeper. And in Game 1 of The Finals, a 105-94 Thunder victory, Spoelstra couldn’t get away with playing such a short rotation.
Off the bench, the Heat got 34 minutes from Chris Bosh, 10 minutes from Mike Miller, and two minutes from Joel Anthony. Norris Cole and James Jones, who have each been in and out of the rotation in this postseason, did not play. The Heat said afterward that Jones was unavailable because of a migraine.
The lack of depth appeared to play a part in the Heat’s demise on Tuesday. After outscoring the Thunder 29-22 in the first quarter, Miami trended down. The second quarter was even. Oklahoma City won the third quarter by eight and the fourth quarter by 10, as the Heat seemingly ran out of gas.
“We know we have to have more production for sure,” LeBron James said afterward. “We’re going to have to have more guys in there to give me and D-Wade a rest. And Shane, Shane played a lot of minutes. But Spo will figure that out. We’ll be more conscious about it, just trying to get a minute or two here or there so we can finish strong. But I don’t think it was much of a problem tonight.”
Whether or not Bosh starts Game 2 probably doesn’t matter. With Bosh on the bench, the Heat got off to a great start. But Miami needs more than six contributors, especially against this opponent.
The question is, who will that other contributor be? Spoelstra didn’t seem to know after the Game 1 loss.
“I have to see who’s really available,” he said.
If Jones has recovered from his migraine by Thursday, he could be that guy. Miller is dealing with back issues and might not be able to play more than the 10 minutes he logged on Tuesday. Cole might be able to match up with Derek Fisher, but probably can’t get caught guarding Russell Westbrook.
Really, there’s nobody beyond the top six that Spoelstra knows he can rely on. At this point, going to his bench is just grasping at straws. And that could be an issue for the Heat throughout the series.
“Going into this game, we were going to try and keep it a tight rotation, maybe not as tight as it was, and give us our best shot,” Spoelstra said. “But I’ll probably try to go a little bit deeper in Game 2.”