The Heat won 27 straight games with Udonis Haslem in the starting lineup this season. Naturally, Erik Spoelstra decided to stick with what worked in February and March and go with Haslem in the starting lineup to begin the playoffs.
Haslem was set to start Game 1 against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena with Shane Battier coming off the bench. Battier started in the 2012 NBA Finals and there was a belief leading up to the playoffs that Spoelstra would return to that lineup this postseason. He still might at some point, but for now Haslem appears entrenched.
With a nod to last season's playoff tradition, Spoelstra waited until the 11th hour on Sunday before disclosing his starting lineup. During his pregame news conference less than two hours before the game, Spoelstra gamely announced he wasn't giving away the Heat's first five until absolutely necessary.
"Is it any different than the way I've done it?" Spoelstra asked rhetorically during his pregame news conference.
It wasn't until Spoelstra filled out his lineup card 45 minutes before tipoff that the decision was announced via Twitter. Of course, Spoelstra gave a big hint that Battier would still be an important part of the game plan when he stressed the importance of spreading the floor and creating a mismatch against Bucks power forward Larry Sanders.
"We have to see Sanders and make him pay when he comes to block," Spoelstra said.
During last season's playoffs, the Heat used Battier to clear the paint for hard-driving LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Battier found a home in the corner after adjusting to his new role as starter. He was 23 of 31 from three-point range in the NBA Finals.
"Last year in the playoffs, after [Chris Bosh] went down, Spo said, 'You're our new power forward and I don't want you to do anything but shoot threes," Battier said. "Don't dribble, don't run pick and roll, don't cut, don't post up. I want you to run as hard as you can every time to the corner and wait for the ball and if you get it, shoot it."