A 36-point blowout in Game Three and the danger of falling behind 3-1 has Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra tinkering with his lineup, and the results could put LeBron James at center.
According to a report from ESPN, the Heat could insert hot-shooting guard Mike Miller into the starting lineup in place of Udonis Haslem in Thursday night’s Game Four of the NBA Finals, hoping the switch will jump start Miami’s offense. The move could also open up lanes for James and slashing guard Dwyane Wade. Led by Tim Duncan, the Spurs have completely clogged the paint, pressing the defending champions to take more jump shots.
Miller has gone 10-for-11 from three-point range in the first three games of the series, and his presence could force San Antonio out of the middle. Limited by injuries, Miller averaged 4.8 points during the regular season and hadn't made dent in these playoffs until the Finals.
Miami are at risk of falling behind 3-1 in the seven game series, with one more game left in San Antonio, and a shakeup in the starting lineup could be just the remedy.
The Heat will need a serious jolt of offense if the Spurs get hot from deep like they did in Game Three. San Antonio is up 2-1 in the series thanks to Danny Green and Gary Neal totaling 51 points off 13 three-pointers in the 113-77 drubbing. Duncan had 12 points and 14 rebounds, and forward Kawhi Leonard continued his strong Finals debut with 14 points and 12 rebounds. The Spurs set a new Finals record with 16 three-pointers.
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James had 15 points on seven-for-21 shooting, with no trips to the foul line. Miller did manage to come off the bench and knock down all five of his three-point attempts for 15 points.
The Spurs put together such an amazing offensive display without Tony Parker for much of the second half. Parker injured his right hamstring with about five minutes left in the third quarter, and an MRI taken Wednesday revealed a slight tear.
The 31-year-old said earlier Thursday that he is a go for Game Four, but he may not be at 100 percent. Neal, veteran Manu Ginobili, and reserve Cory Joseph would be head coach Gregg Popovich's go-to replacements for Parker should the French native show any more signs of injury.
James would play center on defense against Duncan, which would appear to be a mismatch if it weren’t for the versatile MVP’s incredible shot-blocking abilities and 250-pound frame. Haslem has done a serviceable job guarding Duncan, but his seven total points in the series aren’t exactly forcing the future Hall-of-Fame big man to hustle on the defensive end.
Tonight many will point out the most famous example of a guard/swing man taking over down low in Finals history. Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson took over center duties for the injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Game Six of the 1980 NBA Finals, and tallied 42 points, 15 rebounds, and seven assists. The Lakers triumphed 123-107 in the deciding game in perhaps the most memorable moment of Johnson's rookie season.
The game will be broadcast by ABC beginning at 9 p.m. Eastern, or watch a live online stream at Watch ESPN here.
Point Spread: Miami is favored by 1 point.
Over/Under: 187 points
Prediction: Miami 100, San Antonio 94