Shane Battier will have to wait a little longer for that juicy rib-eye steak.
The Heat’s veteran forward, whose sharpshooting and defense were instrumental in last season’s NBA championship run, continued his postseason funk with a fourth consecutive scoreless game. He played under seven minutes Thursday night and went 0 for 3 as the Heat lost 92-88 to the San Antonio Spurs in the opening game of the NBA Finals.
“It is what it is; it is what it is,” Battier said afterward. “I’ll be ready to help my team.”
He was 2 for 16 combined against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals, playing eight scoreless minutes in Game 5, four scoreless minutes in Game 6, and then in Game 7 Battier suffered the ultimate basketball indignity — the dreaded DNP, Coach’s Decision.
It was just the second time all season that Battier was benched for an entire game. The other time, he was coming off an injury. As always, Battier handled one of the toughest nights of his career with grace and a self-deprecating sense of humor.
“The good news is I was equipped, thanks to my arsenal of Bud Light,” Battier said of the DNP. “If there was a man prepared to handle that, it was me. Obviously, as a competitor, it was tough. I’m not going to lie. It was maybe the toughest thing I’ve gone through as a competitor. Super happy for my team and my teammates.
“In retrospect, it’s OK. Every now and then you’ve got to eat a turd sandwich. You eat a turd sandwich and that rib-eye tastes really good next time. That’s life. That’s the way I look at it.”
Heading into Thursday’s game, most figured that Battier would break out of his slump and get his rib-eye. On paper, it seemed the Spurs would be a better matchup for the versatile player. He wouldn’t have to defend a player as physical as the Pacers’ David West, and his playing style is better suited to defend the Spurs, who play smaller and like to space out the floor.
But when it came time to call in three-point shooters in the first quarter, Ray Allen and Mike Miller got the first nods from Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. Thirteen seconds later, Allen hit a three to give the Heat a two-point lead, and a minute later Miller scored on a driving floater. Miller was also on the floor when it mattered most, in the closing minutes.
Battier did get into the game, going in for Chris Andersen with 7:03 left in the first half.
When he got to his familiar spot in the corner and launched a three-point shot with three minutes to go in the half, you could almost smell the rib-eye grilling atop the rim. But it bounced off, and all the Battier faithful in the building groaned.
“The first one, I thought was good,” Battier said. “The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”
He missed his next two three-point attempts, too, and never returned to the game after halftime.
Last season in five starts against Oklahoma City in the NBA Finals, Battier averaged 37 minutes and 11.6 points on a team-best 61 percent shooting. He was shooting only 23 percent through 15 playoff games this season.
Before Thursday’s game, Spoelstra was asked if he planned to get Miller into the rotation more. He replied: “We’ll see. Everything is on the table.”
Everything, that is, except Battier’s rib-eye.
Miami Herald sportswriter Adam Beasley contributed to this report.