It's been much more than one issue for the Heat. The San Antonio Spurs have put a smack down on the Heat on several different areas of the game to dominate them. One of those areas, was the adjustment of Boris Diaw entering the starting lineup in Game 3 and Game 4, thus when the Spurs began to completely dismantle the Heat.
In 2012, the Heat inserted Shane Battier into the starting lineup once Chris Bosh went down with an injury in the second round against the Pacers, and then he remained the starter alongside Bosh for the remainder of the playoffs, including a 4-1 NBA Finals win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Battier's floor spacing and unique defensive skills helped the Heat win with small ball.
Chris Bosh never wanted to play center, and the Heat looked for multiple options to fill that role, one of them Udonis Haslem, to guard the bigger players on the block. But what ultimately became clear, is that the Heat are most lethal when they play their small ball.
Last year, it was in the insertion of Mike Miller into the starting lineup to continue the small ball that ultimately helped the Heat win 4-3 over the Spurs in the 2013 NBA Finals. Miller started the final 4 games of the series and helped create space and hustle around the floor.
Without Mike Miller, who was amnestied before the season, and a deteriorated Battier, the Heat have been left looking for answers for their fifth starter. In the first round, it was Haslem, then against the smaller Nets, it was Battier, and finally against the Pacers, Spoelstra finally went to Rashard Lewis. At 6'10, Lewis doesn't necessarily classify as small ball, but he doesn't play big either. And no question about it, he has been a pleasant surprise.
But its been the Spurs change of Diaw over Tiago Splitter that has effectively beaten the Heat at their own game. One could argue that in Game 1 and Game 2, the Heat were the better team, having given up a late lead in Game 1 in addition to LeBron James' leg cramps, and winning Game 2. Then Gregg Popovich put Splitter on the bench and the versatile Diaw with his starters, and it worked. The Spurs blew out the Heat in Games 3 and 4 by a combined 40 points.
Diaw's numbers are mind boggling, but his effectiveness has been. Diaw seemingly has always made the right play in the Spurs constant, and fast moving offense. With the Spurs going small, it leaves Splitter on the floor when Tim Duncan is not. And so the Spurs have as much spacing as the Heat do, and yet they obviously move the ball much better. San Antonio is getting open looks left, right, center, forward, backwards, any way you view it, they are getting what they want.
Diaw has also given the Spurs an option on the low block, especially when the Heat try to cross match when James guards Tony Parker, leaving Dwyane Wad to guard him, and Diaw is winning the matchup. It's been an obvious problem for the Heat, and one they need to figure out.
Udonis Haslem could find his way back into the lineup to try and counter Diaw. And dare I say it, but I would like to atleast see Michael Beasley put on a jersey for the opportunity of having him play. We all know Greg Oden is too slow laterally to ever have a chance to make a difference in this series. Whatever it is, Spoelstra needs to find some adjustments to the Spurs adjustments.
This series emphasizes the faultiness of other teams (Indiana Pacers) who tried to beat the Heat by going big. If there is ever a way to do it, it's get on their level, and be better at it than they are.
Us fans only know so much. We are perplexed at how the Heat can be dominated at this point of the season, especially on their home floor. But as we see it, the Spurs are beating the Heat at their own game.
The Heat play in San Antonio for Game 5 on Sunday night, 8:00 PM EST on ABC.