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Miami Heat seems to need a bigger cast in NBA Finals

The team basically uses a six-man rotation in Game 1, a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Coach Erik Spoelstra says he'll try to get the Heat more rest.

June 13, 2012|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Miami's Chris Bosh, left, and LeBron James make their way back to the court following a timeout during the fourth quarter of the Heat's 105-94 loss to Oklahoma City in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday. Miami's starters didn't get much rest against the Thunder.
Miami's Chris Bosh, left, and LeBron James make their way back to the… (Al Diaz / MCT )

OKLAHOMA CITY — Somewhere between a 13-point second-quarter lead and an 11-point loss, it became blindingly obvious.

There might not be enough players for the Miami Heat to win a championship.

The Heat basically went with a six-man rotation in a 105-94 loss Tuesday to Oklahoma City in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, an issue still being debated a day later.

It was the first question reporters posed to Miami Coach Erik Spoelstra before the Heat began practice Wednesday.

"I'll probably go a little bit deeper into the rotation, obviously, try to get the guys a little more rest," he said.

His starters will thank him.

LeBron James played 46 minutes in Game 1. Dwyane Wade played 42. Shane Battier, a 33-year-old forward, played 42 minutes. Chris Bosh, who recently returned from an abdominal injury, played 34 minutes off the bench.

The problems begin after Bosh. Reserve Mike Miller logged only 10 minutes. Joel Anthony logged two. And that was it for the backups.

How much rest does James need Thursday in Game 2? He played 48 minutes in three of the seven games against Boston in the Eastern Conference finals.

"Well it's a fine line, honestly, especially now being in the Finals," James said Wednesday. "I've got to be more 'out' with my coaching staff…. It's just all about a communication thing, getting two minutes' rest here, three minutes there. It may help."

Heat reserve forward James Jones was a late scratch from Game 1 because of a migraine headache. His return for Game 2 would help.

Miami isn't as old as Boston, Dallas or the Lakers. James is 27. Bosh is 28. Wade is the old man of the Big Three, weighing in at 30 years.

But compared to the Thunder's thick nucleus of 23-and-under players, Miami looks somewhat aged. It's as ridiculous as it is true, especially after taking a peek at fastbreak points from Game 1: 24-4 in favor of the Thunder.

Kevin Durant (23 years old) looked flawless in 46 minutes, scoring 17 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter. Russell Westbrook (also 23) had 27 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds in 42 minutes.

They, uh, don't seem tired. If anything, they copped to being nervous. It's their first time in the NBA Finals, unlike James and Wade, each in their third trip.

"I think all the stuff before the game kind of made me a little nervous — the intros and all the media here, so many people here," Durant said. "I've never seen this many people here in Oklahoma City before at a basketball game. But you got used to it once the ball is tipped. It goes back to when you're a kid playing a game, just playing."

Only one Finals game has been played, but the hammer's already swinging the Heat's way.

Spoelstra was asked by a reporter why he briefly removed a hot-shooting Battier in the first quarter. The reporter referred to it as a "second-guess" question.

"I'm used to that world," said Spoelstra, the youthful Heat coach who has been under fire almost since he took the job four years ago.

Observers also noted Wade's problems, mainly 19 points on seven-for-19 shooting Tuesday. His playoff numbers are down almost across the board from a year ago, notably scoring (24.5 to 22.7), shooting (48.5% to 46.5%) and rebounding (7.1 to 4.9). Curiously, his free-throw shooting is also down to 72.5%, compared with 77.7% last year.

The Heat-bashing circulated easily to Oklahoma City's practice, where it found an unlikely critic.

"I'm not sure what it is you expect these guys to do," Thunder guard Derek Fisher said. "I mean, one guy's averaging 30 points for the playoffs. Another guy's averaging 20 points for the playoffs. Everybody's defense is geared to not allow them to be superheroes."

Either way, people are definitely watching. ABC drew a 9.9 household rating, its highest for a Finals opener, beating the Lakers versus Detroit in 2004 (9.8). ABC has broadcast the Finals since 2003.

But can Miami keep the series competitive, and viewers interested, if its six-man rotation continues?

"We have enough," Spoelstra insisted. "Fatigue wasn't an issue [Tuesday] night, and so our focus will be on playing more to our identity. They imposed their identity more than we did in that game."

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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