When Shane Battier learned he was starting Miami’s opening game against Brooklyn on Tuesday, he said he was “definitely nervous.”
After playing just a handful of minutes in garbage time during the entire opening-round series against Charlotte, Battier had cause for concern.
By his calculations, Battier said he hadn’t “played a meaningful game in a month” before starting Miami’s lopsided 107-86 win over the Nets.
The previous time Battier played meaningful minutes in a game that mattered? A loss at Memphis on April 9.
In Miami’s four-game sweep of the Bobcats, Battier played the final 2:04 of the Heat’s blowout win in Game 3.
Battier ended up playing 26 minutes against the Nets and scored eight points.
“It took me a few minutes to get the mothballs out of my shoes,’’ said Battier, who found the end of coach Erik Spoelstra’s bench for two of Miami’s final four games in the regular season.
“Once I got them out, I was OK.”
Citing matchup concerns against Brooklyn, Spoelstra started Battier instead of Udonis Haslem.
Like Battier in his lone game against Charlotte, Haslem didn’t find the court until the game had been long decided.
Spoelstra doesn’t like sitting his veteran players yet knows they understand the situation. Spoelstra and the Heat has long preached sacrifice for the betterment of the team.
Still, it can’t be easy not being able to help out.
“We all have egos,’’ Spoelstra said, “and there may be times when he wants to take me out into a dark alley. But the thing you respect about our guys and respect about Shane is how they stay ready. You see him running sprints after practice, getting in extra shots. He does what he has to do so when his number is called, he’s ready and not dying because he doesn’t have a conditioning base.’’
Said LeBron James: “Shane’s number was called, and he stepped up big time.”
Athough Battier didn’t like sitting against the Bobcats, he said he knew it could be this way at times when he signed with the Heat.
“There’s no excuses, you just go out and do your job,’’ said Battier, who is expected to retire after this season. “It’s part of the deal. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else. ...
“I think I have the gift of perspective at 35 years old. I understand this is position I’m in. I signed up for it. I have no one to blame but myself. We have a talented, talented team and you can only play five at a time.’’
Battier wasn’t the only one to come in and make more of a difference against the Nets than he did against the Bobcats.
Ray Allen struggled to score against Charlotte but got his shot flowing early when he drained an off-balance three-pointer not long after he came off the bench in the first quarter.
Allen, who won a title with former teammates Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce with Boston, scored a total of 13 points in four games against the Bobcats.
On Tuesday, Allen had 19.
“Ray was a little juiced up,’’ James said. “It was great to get that contribution. He was a little off rhythm in the first series and couldn’t find his shot, but [Tuesday] he definitely found it.’’
Afterward, Allen said going up against Garnett and Pierce in the playoffs for the first time didn’t mean much personally.
It didn’t look that way in the fourth when Allen sank a three-pointer to put the Heat ahead 19 points — all but ending Brooklyn’s hopes this night.
“Actually, for me, the other five guys on the other team are blank to me. No matter who they are,’’ Allen said. “They are in your way and you want to do anything you can to beat them.’’