Back at the Right Time

Everyone is ready to go as the postseason begins

Dwyane Wade Udonis Haslem
Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon

It’s no secret that the Miami HEAT have had to deal with multiple starting lineups throughout the regular season. In all, Erik Spoelstra went to 21 different starting lineups mostly due to injuries or rest for his players. Luckily, no injury for Miami was season-ending or very serious, but rather just little nicks along the way. Now with the postseason beginning Sunday afternoon, the shuffling in and out of lineups should finally come to an end. As much as it ever does, at least, in Miami.

“It was good to get back into the gym, have a full squad for practice. I don’t know when the last time we had that,” Spoelstra said Friday afternoon. “We happen to be as healthy now as we’ve been in a long time, but that doesn’t guarantee anything.”

Chris Bosh was equally as pleased to have everyone ready to go for the playoffs.

“It’s awesome man,” Bosh said. “It’s like old times, we had a lot of fun today preparing, getting after it, pushing one another to get better and prepare for this team that we’re playing in the first round.”

One likely playoff group (Chalmers-Wade-James-Bosh-Haslem) Spoelstra could go with, as he did last season, didn’t see much action this year. The lineup logged just 68 minutes (six games played) as opposed to last year’s postseason when that same lineup logged 277 minutes in 18 games played and produced a net efficiency rating of 7.6.

The benefit of going to that lineup again this postseason is that Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem are still relatively fresh, having missed a decent amount of games as the regular season wore on. Adding to that, LeBron James and Chris Bosh will have had more than a week off since they’re last live-game action when they take the floor Sunday afternoon. All that combined should be a recipe for success.

Wade’s well-documented maintenance program has now left him with fresh legs ready for the playoffs. In his return to the starting lineup against the Atlanta Hawks on April 12, Wade shot 10-of-14 for 24 points, looking like he hadn’t missed a beat.

“I think now at this point we just all play basketball and if we have it going then we have it going,” Wade said. “If it’s not my night to shine, it’s not my night offensively to shine, but there’s other ways to affect the game.”

Like Wade, Haslem missed a lot of time during the regular season in part due to a lingering back injury that limited him. However, since he was brought back into the rotation on March 19 against the Boston Celtics, he has looked like the Haslem of old. Haslem has been drawing charges, hitting the midrange baseline jumper and rebounding at a very efficient rate. Since his return, the co-captain has averaged 7.1 points on 62.5 percent shooting and 6.4 rebounds in his 21.4 minutes per game.

“The thing I’m happy about with how the regular season ended is that UD found his way back into the starting lineup,” Wade said. “You’re a lot more confident going in a game knowing what that guy is going to bring to you, especially in matchups like this. You have a guy like Al Jefferson who is a load and tough to cover. You got to have help, but you also know UD is going to fight, going to scrap and do everything possible to not let him get off.”

With Haslem out, the lineup Spoelstra mainly used this season was Chalmers-Wade-James-Battier-Bosh, which logged 429 minutes throughout the regular season, averaged 27.1 assists per 48 minutes and had a net rating of 8.1.

Another intriguing lineup that was used sparingly for the HEAT this year was the Chalmers-Wade-Allen-James-Bosh squad, which logged 66 minutes in 20 games played. The lineup shot very well across the board: over 50 percent from the field, 43.2 percent from downtown and nearly 78 percent from the charity stripe. Most importantly, that group outscored opponents by 26.1 points per 100 possessions.

The sample size is rather small, but you can’t argue with the success that lineup had.

The best thing about the postseason is that there likely will be no more of the “Who’s In? Who’s Out?” game that Spoelstra had to unfortunately deal with as the regular season wore on. With the playoffs comes consistency, and as a result, flexibility.

And that’s a good thing.