The Heat’s starting lineup in last June’s NBA Finals — with Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers joining the Big3 — proved to be ideal combination against Oklahoma City.
But this postseason, when Battier has come off the bench and joined the four others, that unit has been a disaster statistically. And coach Erik Spoelstra has used that lineup increasingly sparingly.
The group of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Battier and Chalmers has been outscored by 19 points in 23 playoff minutes, due in part to poor shooting (7 for 28) and poor ball-handling (nine turnovers, four assists).
Spoelstra decided before the playoffs to stick with Udonis Haslem as a starter instead of going back to Battier, who has shot poorly and logged just 18 minutes in the past four games. He didn’t play at all in Game 7 of the Indiana series.
During last year’s playoffs, that group of Battier, Chalmers and the Big 3 outscored opponents by 32 points in their 159 minutes on the court together. This season, that quintet has played the eighth-most minutes among Heat lineups.
“It’s hard right now [to play that lineup] with the way the rotation has shaken out,” Heat assistant coach David Fizdale said.
By sticking with Haslem as a starter throughout the postseason, “we’re not at an immediate [size] disadvantage,” Fizdale said. “Most teams we play against want to punish us early, so we try not to put LeBron and Shane in that position early in the game. As the game wears on, we can get to those groups that are not as big and physical.”
Fizdale, 38, reportedly is among candidates on the radar of the 76ers, who are looking for a head coach to replace Doug Collins. He said he hasn’t been contacted but would listen if approached after the Finals.
“They’ve got great personnel, great history,” he said. “That’s a team you would really have to consider, especially with Jrue Holiday as a point guard.”
Fizdale, who has a year left on his contract, declined an opportunity to interview for Portland’s head coaching job last June.
“With me just signing my new contract with Miami, us just coming off winning one last year, I wanted to take another shot at getting multiple [rings] with this group,” he said. “I didn’t feel at the time the Portland thing was the right timing.”
Now, after years of being “tutored” by Heat president Pat Riley, Spoelstra and assistant Ron Rothstein, he would be open “to the right situation. … I’ve really tried to soak up everything they say about that seat. Am I ready? Probably not. You’re never really ready. Eventually, it just has to happen and you do it.”
THIS AND THAT
• Wade said Saturday: “We’re not a team that really says this is a must-win game. But this is a must-win game” Sunday. “I don’t think we’ll make the same mistakes we made in Game 1.”
• Chalmers said compared with the series against the Bulls and Pacers, this matchup is “a lot less physical.” Battier cracked: “Indiana and Chicago were like MMA on ABC. It was a shock to play a [less physical] basketball game” Thursday.
James shot 2 for 8 when guarded by Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard in Game 1, and Leonard said he’s “pretty sure” James will try to take more control Sunday.
But James said when people say he needs to be more aggressive, “I can’t get involved in that honestly, because I’ve done more and lost before.
“Offensively, I attract so much attention that if a guy is open on my team, I will pass the ball.” But he said there were also “a few plays I could have been more aggressive” in Game 1.
• James said “it has been a toll for myself to go through what I’ve been through the last 2 1/2 years” with two long playoff runs and an Olympics. “I would love to have rest, but not at this time of the year. I wouldn’t substitute sitting down in my house right now watching the Finals.”