When you take a look at the Heat’s most successful and productive five-man lineups in terms of plus-minus rating, it’s no surprise that rookie Justise Winslow’s name is listed on nearly all of them.
After all, he entered Wednesday night’s game ranked third on the team in plus-minus at plus-84.
What is surprising? In five of the team’s top 17 plus-minus lineups, the 6-7, 225-pound rookie was playing power forward, not small forward for the Heat.
The same way veteran Luol Deng has slid over to the four spot once Hassan Whiteside or Chris Bosh heads to the bench, the 19-year-old has been doing the same in certain situations.
He did so in some of the most crucial moments of Monday’s 103-100 overtime win over the Pacers, playing 10 minutes in all at the four spot alongside center Bosh and guards Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson and Dwyane Wade. That group finished plus-five against the Pacers and is one of 14 lineups with Winslow at the four that is in the positive in plus-minus.
“We’ve played quite a bit of basketball with Justise at the four,” Bosh said Wednesday. “We just haven’t [gone] to it, with him out, in a little bit. We’ve been playing bigger teams that we wanted to match up. But he gives us flexibility. Between him and Luol, they’re going to give us flexibility to be able to guard guys in different ways, to be able to give different coverages.”
Although Winslow still doesn’t have a ton of minutes at power forward, the ones he usually does play are positive (103 total) for the Heat. Coach Erik Spoelstra said the team has spent a lot time behind the scenes in pre-practice working with Winslow at the four.
“He’s been doing that for about, over a month,” Spoelstra said. “He doesn’t play it in the game [often]. But you never know when [we’ll go to it]. And it’s not like it’s something new. He’s had 1,000 reps behind the scenes. You get thrown in there and it’s like, OK, this is something familiar.”
Winslow said offensively the role doesn’t change much for him at all between small forward and power forward because he stays in the corner waiting for a feed from Wade or Bosh.
“There are probably a handful of teams that are staying traditional, staying with the bigs,” Winslow said of moving to the four late in games. “A lot of teams are going small. It won us the game [Monday].”
A SECOND LOOK
The NBA on Tuesday said the Heat benefitted from two crucial non-calls in Monday’s overtime victory over the Pacers.
First, the league said Bosh set an illegal screen on Paul George that freed up Wade to make his game-tying basket at the end of regulation. Then, near the end of overtime, the league said Wade should have been called for a loose-ball foul on Ian Mahinmi when he tipped the ball to Bosh for an offensive rebound.
Bosh subsequently made a free throw after he was fouled with 3.9 seconds left in overtime to turn a two-point game into a three-point game.
So what did Bosh and Wade think of the NBA’s review?
“If that’s an illegal screen, then no screens would be set,” Bosh said. “I just didn’t like when they said ‘aided’ our victory. We still went to overtime, and we still had to gut it out. Dwyane still had to make a play no matter what everybody thinks. Guys get things wrong. We get things wrong. It’s the human condition.
“It’s easy to bring out the two-minute report and say ‘look.’ We’ve been through that [on the other end]. We didn’t point to that one play. We pointed to other plays. Well, we should’ve [taken] care of business here.”
Wade said there’s “too much stuff going on” to get caught up in an NBA ruling that’s made after the fact and that doesn’t change the outcome.
“If you ask players, we feel it’s a lot of things that happen that don’t get called or do get called that don’t happen,” Wade said. “In this league you end up being on both sides of the coin. We’ve been a lot of sides of things not getting called this year. So it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t bring us a win and obviously it don’t put us a [loss]. It doesn’t matter.”