Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra Defends Controversial Lineup Move After Celtics Loss

erik spoelstra miami heat

Getty Head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat.

Against the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics on Wednesday, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra made an interesting decision. The Heat needed a boost, someone off the bench with some pop, and some energy.

And who did Spoelstra turn to to provide that sparkplug off the bench? Not the young, springy, and rookie revelation that is Nikola Jovic. Instead, Spoelstra gave the nod to 42-year-old Udonis Haslem, whose 9:25 is more time than he’s received in over one calendar year.

After the game, Spoelstra revealed his thought process behind giving Haslem the chunk of time over Jovic.

“With Dewayne [Dedmon] out, we just needed a little bit more experience, we just needed a little bit more experience,” Spoelstra said. “Niko [Jovic] could’ve given us good minutes but UD gives you that veteran presence … All the guys trust UD. He has a way of making everybody play a little bit harder and a little bit tougher.”


Spo Reveals Yet Another Potential Injury Concern for Heat

Spoelstra didn’t just play Haslem because he believed the 42-year-old could provide toughness and energy. At his postgame presser, Spoelstra revealed a slight injury concern involving Jovic.

“Niko has a sore foot and sore groin,” Spoelstra explained. “He’s dealing with a couple different things.”

Those words are enough to traumatize even the casual Miami Heat fan. So far this season, the Heat’s stars have missed significant time with injuries. Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, and Bam Adebayo all have been in and out of the lineup with various health concerns.

Yet the Heat have continued to find ways to muddle along. One of those ways came in the form of Jovic, who flashed real potential in his increased minutes. After seeing limited time to start the season, Jovic exploded in mid-November, averaging 9.3 points and four rebounds for a Heat team starved of production on the defensive glass. Against the Washington Wizards on November 18, Jovic recorded a 15-point first half, joining just three other rookies to accomplish that feat this season.

Heat Getting Butler Back This Week

Though Jovic might be out of the lineup, the Heat did get some positive injury news on Friday.

“Butler expected to play tonight. Just went through shootaround with team,” tweeted Florida sports reporter Barry Jackson.

Butler’s missed the last seven games with injury. Over that stretch, the Heat went 3-5, with losses to the Wizards, Cavaliers, Celtics, and Timberwolves. Also over that span, Miami was outscored by opponents 106.3-109.9, a dismal showing that highlights Butler’s importance to the lineup. Spoelstra didn’t hold back when asked what it means to have Butler return to the lineup.

“That brings life into our whole group,” Spoelstra said. “We all know how important [Butler] is for our team.”

When healthy, the Miami Heat have the potential to trot out a devastating lineup. Miami’s best five: Max Strus, Bam Adebayo, Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, and Caleb Martin are outscoring opponents by 31.5 points per 100 possessions, good enough for the 97th percentile in the NBA. Only the Philadelphia 76ers and Dallas Mavericks have a five-man unit that ranks better than the Heat’s, suggesting that, once healthy, this team has limitless potential.

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