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No Hassan, No Valanciunas, No Problem: Small-ball arrives in Miami

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The absence of Hassan Whiteside forces Miami to rebound by committee with Amar's Stoudemire, Udonis Haslem, Josh McRoberts, Justise Winslow and Luol Deng sharing the load on the defensive end.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The listing of Hassan Whiteside as day-to-day with a sprained right MCL, along with Jonas Valanciunas missing the remainder of the Miami Heat series due to a sprained right ankle forces both teams to use radically different styles than they were accustomed to during the regular season, in order to save their playoff dreams. The uncertainty of Hassan's condition at critical moments during game time shifts the burden onto the shoulders of players the Heat know will be available.

The speed trio of former Duke players Josh McRoberts, 6'10" & 240 lbs, Justise Winslow, 6'7" & 225 lbs, Luol Deng, 6'9" & 220 lbs could see time together as a tribute to their former Coach Krzyzewski. The veteran heavyweight front-court, each 33+ years, of Udonis Haslem, 6'8" & 235 lbs, Amar'e Stoudemire, 6'10" & 245 lbs, Joe Johnston, 6'7" & 240 lbs, show more scoring punch and can still rebound with their sheer size and weight.

The Heat's time to move on to a strategy, that has worked for other teams this postseason who lack a Whiteside-like presence around the rim, has come out of necessity. One figure in particular shows what the Cleveland Cavaliers have used with great success in this year's second season.

Going a perfect 8-0 so far, they scored the LOWEST percentage of their points in the paint among the 16 teams who qualified for postseason play. Even though the Cavaliers showcase NBA's highlight dunker in LeBron James, less than 30% of their points came in the painted area. For them, facing the league's premier shot-blocker would be an inconvenience, not a problem.

The NBA stats page for the playoffs demonstrate the surprising facts:

TEAM WON LOST %PITP
Cleveland Cavaliers 8 0 28.5
Portland Trail Blazers 5 4 36.1
Indiana Pacers 3 4 36.3
San Antonio Spurs 6 2 37.1
Oklahoma City Thunder 6 3 38.7
Golden State Warriors 6 2 40.0
Toronto Raptors 6 4 40.3
Detroit Pistons 0 4 41.1
Dallas Mavericks 1 4 42.2
Los Angeles Clippers 2 4 43.1
Atlanta Hawks 4 6 43.2
Memphis Grizzlies 0 4 43.8
Boston Celtics 2 4 44.0
Miami Heat 5 5 44.1
Charlotte Hornets 3 4 45.6
Houston Rockets 1 4 46.5

The seven teams scoring the least part of their points in the paint had a combined record of 40-19, while the nine teams with best combined %PITP only won 19 games of their 59 games. Six of the seven low %PITP teams, won their first round battles. Seven of the nine in the bottom group got knocked out in the quarterfinals, with the Hawks and Heat the only exceptions, and they are both trailing in the semifinals so far.

That the Cavaliers beat the Spurs and Warriors at their own game by scoring over 6% of points outside the painted area more than them, merits a double-take. The surviving teams in the semifinals got there by outside shooting: not by making points in the paint.

The dribbling and probing of Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson for lob opportunities to Whiteside may have been going after fool's gold, even with his nightly double-doubles. The Cavaliers, Spurs and Warriors -- a combined 20-3 postseason record -- don't rely on a dominant big man in the paint, but win through the philosophy of the Warriors' patent-pending "Strength in Numbers" slogan.

Was sitting Justise Winslow the reason Kyle Lowry regained his shooting touch in game three?

In the last game Winslow, Tyler Johnson, Dorell Wright were all listed as DNP. Instead of trusting and using the entire 13-man strength of the team, Spoelstra played Joe Johnson, Luol Deng and Wade over 35 minutes each. More than ever without Whiteside and Chris Bosh, "(The) Truth (is) in the Detail(s)." Involving Tyler, Dorell and Briante in the details, as if they were as important as everyone else, would make the Heat 13 strong: no player can be overlooked at this stage in his contribution to the cause.

Toronto's sportsnet singled out Josh McRoberts as the Heat's most effective big man against Jonas Valanciunas.

"Just about the only Heat big man who showed any level of effectiveness trying to go against Valanciunas was Josh McRoberts, who didn’t see any floor time in the first games, and that’s likely because he has such an overwhelming athletic advantage over the Raptors centre and does a good job of finding his man and boxing out when rebounds are up for grabs."

Time waits for no one as the the race to sixteen wins continue.