Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra certainly is not averse to making changes to his starting lineup — witness the jockeying he has done at a forward spot with Rashard Lewis, Shane Battier, and Udonis Haslem having started six games each at the position in the playoffs.
But when it comes to point guard, Spoelstra said after the Heat’s Game 3 NBA Finals loss to San Antonio Tuesday night that he plans no changes at this time.
Frankly, there isn’t a whole lot he can do.
He can’t go out and sign a free agent or give a draft choice an opportunity. Spoelstra, as the old saying of former Texas football coach Darrell Royal goes, pretty much “has to dance with them that brung you” as the Heat eye Game 4 Thursday night in Miami. Game 5 is Sunday back in San Antonio.
If Spoelstra holds to that, Mario Chalmers once again will start at point guard with Norris Cole backing him up.
Neither is having the kind of series Miami must get from them if the Heat are to capture a third straight title.
Chalmers is scoring at just a 6.4 points-a-game clip while shooting just 42.2 percent in the 18 playoff games. Against the Spurs, his average is about half that, and he has shot only 25.0 percent from the field (3-of-12).
Worse is his penchant for making silly fouls and committing turnovers. He had three in just 22 minutes in Game 3 and had five in 17 minutes in the series opener. The Heat lost both games.
Cole has had his moments coming off the bench in the past, but against the Spurs he is only 4-of-15 from the field.
In the 111-92 loss in Game 3, Chambers and Cole combined for 10 points in going 3-of-14 from the field. Chambers missed all five of his field goal attempts.
Of course, the way the Spurs were shooting (an NBA record for a Finals half 75.8 percent and 59.1 for the game), Chambers and Cole certainly weren’t all the problem.
If the Heat does not get back to the defensive intensity they showed in the third quarter of the game, when they cut a 25-point deficit down to seven points, and in the fourth quarter of their Game 2 win, point guard isn’t going to matter. The Spurs could win the series in five games.
To keep that from happening Spoelstra essentially has three options:
— Play Toney Douglas, who got in for the last 96 seconds in Game 3 and has played a total of just 21 minutes in eight appearances in the playoffs. Douglas did start 17 of 24 games for the Heat in the regular season after his acquisition in January.If he avoids silly fouls and careless mistakes, he could be an upgrade over the mercurial Chalmers and inconsistent Cole.
— Go without a point guard, using shooting guard Ray Allen, in the spot as he has resorted to recently. LeBron James does seem capable of bringing the ball up the floor. He pretty much does everything else.
— Hope for the best with Chalmers and Cole.