Don’t try to predict Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s substitution patterns. Every game brings a new twist. Among those in Game 4:
Tyler Johnson played minutes in a non-blowout for the first time since he had shoulder surgery in January.
After giving Udonis Haslem the most minutes among his three backup centers in Game 3, Spoelstra started Amar’e Stoudemire on Monday, then went to Josh McRoberts as his first power rotation player off the bench. Haslem then entered with 7:24 left in the second quarter.
After giving Justise Winslow the first DNP-CD of his life (did not play, coach’s decision) in Game 3, Winslow was back in the rotation for Game 4, supplanting Gerald Green, who had appeared in the Heat’s first 10 playoff games.
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Johnson entered to start the second quarter and missed his first shot, but then hit a driving layup, though he missed the ensuing free throw.
Stoudemire picked up two fouls in the game’s first 3:05 but Spoelstra left him in the game for another five minutes before summoning McRoberts.
Meanwhile, Winslow hit a nifty runner after being inserted midway through the first quarter.
Spoelstra said he intended to use Winslow in Game 3 but changed his mind after Hassan Whiteside’s injury. Spoelstra then sought out Winslow after the game.
“I wanted to communicate with him right away; he has definitely earned that kind of respect,” Spoelstra said. “I didn’t want him to think it was based on anything else other than circumstance and to continue to be ready. He handles everything maturely. That was his first DNP. We joked about it.”
Winslow said the “biggest thing is learning from it.”
Meanwhile, Green’s run of first-half appearances ended Monday.
When Green signed with the Heat last summer, Heat president Pat Riley said something that resonated with him:
“Be something that everybody thinks you’re not,” Riley told him.
Though the Heat signed Green primarily to improve its long-distance shooting, the most consistent part of his game this season has been his defense, which was a surprise to some Heat people. The players Green guarded shot 40.3 percent during the regular season, compared to 43.7 percent overall.
Spoelstra said he likes Green’s “speed and quickness. He can guard multiple positions. He’s an out-of-the-box kind of guy.” But he entered Game 4 shooting just 34.1 percent in the playoffs (15 for 44) and 33 percent on threes (4 for 12).
Toronto coach Dwane Casey, who was an assistant coach on Dallas’ staff when Green played for the Mavericks seven years ago, said Tuesday that Green is “a mature player now, much smarter player now.”
Over the past 10 years, Dwyane Wade is the only player who has made more three-pointers in the playoffs than he did in the preceding regular season (minimum five threes), according to Elias. And Wade has done it twice, this postseason and in 2006.
Wade said he has more time to work on threes in the playoffs.
“I’m shooting in-rhythm shots,” he said. “In the regular season, I didn’t even look to shoot them. See, everybody goes off of the numbers, but … the threes I shot during the regular season were at the last second I’d get it and have to throw it up.
“But now I’m just shooting rhythm threes, and you get a couple to fall and your confidence goes up. If I get them, I’ll shoot them again.”
Wade’s 28.4 percent career average on three-pointers is second-worst in NBA history among players who have shot at least 1,000 of them, ahead of only Charles Barkley (26.6).
Riley finished tied for eighth (with Detroit’s Stan Van Gundy) in NBA Executive of the Year voting. San Antonio’s RC Buford won the award.
Memphis, searching for a coach, has expressed interest in Heat assistant coach David Fizdale, among several others, according to a source. It wouldn’t be surprising if he gets an interview.