Usually it's the Thunder that decides when to go “small” with its lineup.
The Miami Heat opted to go small the instant coach Erik Spoelstra submitted his starting lineup an hour before Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.
Just like in Game 1, Spoelstra held his lineup card close to his vest.
In the series opener, he decided to bring Chris Bosh off the bench and start Udonis Haslem instead.
In Game 2, Spoelstra played an unexpected card and started Bosh and Battier and brought Haslem off the bench.
Thursday's 100-96 victory over OKC tied the series at 1-1 and marked the first time in the playoffs Spoelstra used the starting lineup of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers, Bosh and Battier.
The Heat coach liked the mixture so much that every Miami starter played 39-plus minutes.
“It was key, you know, having our best players on the floor early, especially when we needed to start off great,” said Wade, who had 24 points, six rebounds, five assists and one block. “We needed to come out and we needed to play well from the beginning.”
Miami led wire-to-wire and jumped out to an 18-2 lead with 4:51 left in the opening period. The Thunder cut the Heat's lead to 98-96 with 37.5 seconds remaining, but never got closer.
Bosh, who missed nine playoff games with an abdomen injury, had 16 points, 15 rebounds, two blocked shots and had already secured his double-double by halftime with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“I just wanted to be more aggressive coming out starting,” Bosh said. “I knew it's been such a big deal the past day or so, but that's my comfort zone. Either way, if I'm out there, I'm going to be effective. But giving the nod to start, I just wanted to make sure I play good defense and just space the floor correctly and everything would take care of itself.”
After a long film session on Wednesday, Spoelstra determined it was time to get Bosh back on the court after walking through some plays at practice. Bosh walked out and stood directly under the rim.
“That told me what we were doing today in terms of starting him,” Spoelstra said, “and he gave us a lot in the paint – and we need that again and again and again.”
After getting outscored 56-40 in the paint in Game 1, the Heat outscored the Thunder 48-32 in the paint in Game 2.
“I knew we needed more of Chris Bosh,” Spoelstra said. “I think that he already had enough games (coming back from the injury). I think I was leaning that way, and that (film session) cemented my decision. I loved it, and we didn't even talk about it.”
James once again led the way for Miami with 32 points, eight rebounds and five assists. He also went 12 for 12 from the line.