NEW ORLEANS -- The upshot of Erik Spoelstra’s decision to move Greg Oden into the starting lineup recently, on nights that he’s available, is that it gives the Heat’s other starters a chance to adjust to playing with the hulking 7-foot center.
And that adjustment remains very much a work in progress, especially offensively.
Oden has started three games since March 16 and has 11 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks, but also eight fouls in 39 combined minutes in those games. He sat out Saturday’s game in New Orleans because it was the second night of a back-to-back set, and the Heat wants to be cautious in light of his history of knee problems.
“It’s a challenge because we haven’t played together,” Dwyane Wade said late Friday night. “For three years, [ Udonis Haslem] was in the starting lineup and that’s what we were comfortable with. It’s been a challenge this year. Shane [ Battier] was in it. We tried to put Michael Beasley in it and are trying to work Greg Oden in it.
“It’s a little different. We’re trying to get used to it and adjust to it on the fly, especially in March, [with] no practice time and a game every other day. We want him to continue to get comfortable and better in our system. We have to figure it out.”
As a starter, Oden has played at the start of each half. Miami outscored Houston by one point in Oden’s 13 minutes in his first start and outscored Cleveland by eight in Oden’s 14 minutes in his second start, a contest that Wade missed.
But Memphis outscored Miami by 12 in Oden’s 12 minutes on Friday, though Oden wasn’t directly to blame for that. (He had five points, two rebounds and two blocks during his time on the court.)
Of Oden’s 24 field goals (in 42 shot attempts) this season, 17 are dunks.
Wade said the Heat isn’t trying to force-feed him the ball.
“He lets us know when he wants the ball, the way he ducks in,” Wade said. “I think he’s still trying to figure out when he can be aggressive, as in duck in, and sometimes getting out of the way. It’s not there yet. Even though he’s started a few games, he hasn’t played that many minutes with us.
“That’s something we’re just going to have to learn on the fly, learn each other. He doesn’t talk much, so it’s hard to go to him and see kind of what he likes. So we kind of got to figure it out on the court.”
LeBron James continues to work through back issues that sidelined him Wednesday night in Boston. He said he felt the back starting to tighten during the second half of his 43-point game against Cleveland on Monday.
“I woke up hoping to play [Saturday],” he said. “I was able to get treatment. Feeling good, as good as I’m going to get. Some weeks, it’s great. Some weeks, it acts up. I’ve been going through this for a little bit of my career. I’m always able to handle it, but it’s not a great thing.”
Even during the midst of an extended shooting slump earlier this season, Ray Allen insisted he wasn’t concerned. Still, it’s reassuring to see what the NBA’s all-time three-point king has done the past two weeks. Allen has led the Heat in scoring in three of the past five games, including an 18-point night Friday against Memphis.
He’s shooting 50 percent, including 43.3 percent from three-point range, in 12 games in March, while averaging 12.4 points.
Allen had shot 32.6 percent and averaged 7.0 points in January, and 42.4 percent and 7.9 points in February.
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence,” Wade said. “He’s back to being Ray. We’re doing a better job of finding him, running more sets to him. But he’s being aggressive. Even when he doesn’t have his shot, Ray can still put the ball on the floor at times and finish. He changed his mindset a little bit and understanding we’ve been struggling and we need that extra jolt. He’s given us that.”
• According to Elias, Friday’s game marked the first time that James (15 points), Wade (14 points) and Chris Bosh (11 points) all scored 15 or fewer points in the same game in any of the 227 regular-season contests they have appeared in together since becoming teammates in 2010.
• The Heat had a meeting scheduled with center Andrew Bynum on Feb. 1, the day he decided to sign with Indiana instead. But Bynum has played in only two games since, and the Pacers announced Friday he’s out indefinitely with soreness and swelling in his right knee.