Erik Spoelstra inserted Mike Miller into the Heat's rotation for the final two games of the Eastern Conference finals and now the Heat's coach is considering starting Miller for Game 4 of the NBA Finals, according to a report by ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst.
If Miller starts Game 4, it would likely send Udonis Haslem to the bench and force LeBron James to play defensive center against Duncan to begin the game. It's a risky gamble. While Haslem's offense has taken a backseat in The Finals, his defense against Duncan has been consistent and valuable. Duncan is averaging just 13.7 points per game in The Finals and shooting 37.2 percent. With Haslem on the court, Duncan is 6 of 23 (26.1 percent). When Haslem is on the bench, Duncan is shooting 50 percent (10 of 20) in the series.
But the reward of starting Miller in place of Haslem might outweigh the risk. The Spurs' defense has packed the paint in the first three games of the series, leaving shooters wide open on the perimeter. Inserting Miller would serve to purposes. His hot hand would be on the court for more minutes and his presence would potentially open the Spurs' interior defense for attackers LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. James didn't attempt a free throw in Game 3 and went 7 of 21 from the field. Outside the paint, James shot 2 of 14 in Game 3.
On Wednesday, James indicated that getting to the paint would be a priority for the remainder of the series.
“I have to try to put more pressure on the defense,” James said. “Not saying the whistle is going to be blown, putting pressure on their defensive interior and for myself to kick it out for my guys to have to do that. That’s what I was brought here to do. And it can’t be anything less than that.”
While Miller was a forgotten man to begin the playoffs, he does have experience as a starter for the Heat. Miami went 13-4 during the regular season with Miller in the starting lineup. In The Finals, Miller is averaging 9.7 points in 19.3 minutes per game. He is shooting 50 percent from three-point range in the playoffs, including 66.7 percent in road games.