Heat notebook

Mike Miller starts Game 4 for Miami Heat instead of Udonis Haslem

 

bjackson@MiamiHerald.com

For the first time since Dec. 4, Udonis Haslem was not in the starting lineup for a game he was suited up for.

But Haslem handled the sudden lineup change with his typical class Thursday. He said this “is not the time” for worrying about his role or his minutes.

“Whatever it takes,” he said. “We’re in the Finals.”

Haslem said he and Mike Miller each spent time with the first unit during Thursday morning’s shootaround, but Haslem said an hour before game time that he still had not been told whether he would be starting.

Haslem didn’t seem bothered by that. He has nothing but good feelings for Miller, his former roommate at Florida.

“We’ve developed enough of a trust that the guys understand I’ll make any decision that we feel is necessary to help us without hesitation, because there isn’t time,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “So it’s not personal whenever we do it. We’re you dealing with the human element, those things are never easy.”

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade both saw upside to the lineup change, with James saying inserting Miller “opens up the floor.”

Coaches agree

In an unusual moment, Spoelstra and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich went to midcourt to shake the hand of 11-year old Sebastian de la Cruz after he sang the national anthem before Game 4.

De la Cruz had been subjected to hateful remarks on Twitter because of his attire (a traditional mariachi-style outfit) and his Mexican-American heritage.

“He’s a class act,” Popovich said. “Way more mature than most his age. And as much as those comments by the idiots sadden you about your country, he makes you feel that the future could be very bright …

“I would like to say I would be shocked by the comments. But given the fact that there’s still a significant element of bigotry and racism in our nation, I’m not surprised. It still plagues us, obviously. And what I was surprised by was how proud these idiots were of their ignorance, by printing their names next to their comments.”

This and that

• Like San Antonio, Indiana also had quality size ( Roy Hibbert and David West) and skilled defenders covering James ( Paul George, Lance Stephenson).

So why, entering Game 4, was James having more trouble scoring against the Spurs than the Pacers?

“I consider us a better team than Indiana. That explains it,” seldom-used Spurs forward Tracy McGrady said. “We do a better job. Our guys are disciplined, less mistakes, make it tough on everybody. … We’re a great defensive team.”

But even if James had been playing better, McGrady insists: “One great player is not going to beat a great team at this level. Other guys are struggling on that team as well.”

• One problem for James — heading into Game 4 — is that in each round, he has been moving progressively farther from the basket on his shot attempts.

According to ESPN, James’ average shot distance in the Milwaukee series was 8.5 feet (and he shot 62.7 percent). It was 10.7 against the Bulls, 12.3 against the Pacers, and entering Game 4, 13.3 against the Spurs. He was shooting 38.9 percent through three games of the Finals.

• McGrady has not been surprised by the falloff in Wade’s play in the second half of Games 3 and 4.

“Mentally, when you’re dealing with an injury like he’s dealing with, it’s tough to have a great first half and then come out and sustain that,” McGrady said. “I’ve been through that.”

• The Heat is the fourth team in NBA history and first since the 1981 Celtics to not have a 20-point scorer in its first three Finals games.

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