Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition


- By Ira Winderman Staff writer

Charlotte shuffles pack to meet Miami.

CHARLOTTE — By the nature of playing the same opponent multiple times, NBA playoff series are about adjustment­s. But when an injury to a key component changes the dynamic midstream, that’s when the adjustment­s reach another level.

Friday, that left Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford pondering what direction to go amid the injury absence of forward Nicolas Batum, and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra waiting for whatever necessary counters could be needed.

Beyond the given that Batum’s strained left foot has him out for Saturday’s 5:30 p.m. Game 3 of this best-of-seven opening-round series at Time Warner Cable Arena, there were few clues Friday about what will follow the Heat’s two series-opening victories at American-Airlines Arena.

“We can either obviously stay smaller, when we have more versatilit­y on offense,” Clifford said, “or we can play bigger. And I’m going to look at both, watch more film.

“I told them today, ‘Everybody’s got to be ready.’ Obviously that’s what happens in playoff series, especially when you take an injury to one of your better players. We can play big some, small some. We worked on both of them.”

One option is to insert backup guard Jeremy Lin into the starting lineup and play him alongside starting guards Courtney Lee and Kemba Walker. Such an alignment would force Lin to defend either Dwyane

Wade or Joe Johnson, but also would require all three Heat wings to defend the 3-point line.

Another option is to insert rookie forward Frank Kaminsky into the starting lineup, which then would allow struggling power forward Marvin Williams to move to small forward. The issue for Charlotte in that alignment would be Kaminsky having to defend either Johnson or Luol Deng.

Or Charlotte can move all of its power cards to the middle of the table at the outset and start low-post center Al Jefferson in the middle in an oversized lineup that would shift outsidesho­oting center Cody Zeller to power forward, the spot where he started the season.

“It’s still going to be about who can impose their game more consistent­ly than the other team,” Spoelstra said. “It still comes down to that. They’ve had some moments where they’ve really put some pressure on us with their game.”

Just not many, with the Heat unexpected­ly the better 3-point shooting team in the series, at 18 of 34 through the first two games, compared to the Hornets’ 7 of 33.

“All I know,” Spoelstra said, “is they’re an explosive 3-point shooting team.”

He also knows that if the Heat turn their attention to the long ball, they’re turning away from their other strengths.

“We’re not built to necessaril­y make threes,” Spoelstra said. “So we were 9 for 16 the other night [in Wednesday’s Game 2 victory], and everybody’s talked about our threes. We only shot 16. We have to get to our game.”

Wade said savoring those shots in the first two games doesn’t mean attempting to duplicate the success on the road.

“It’s awesome when the ball is going in like that from the perimeter for us,” he said, with the expected disclaimer following.

“We are an attack team,” he said. “That’s not an everyday game for us. So we can’t rely on that, and we don’t hunt for that.”

There is one change that Spoelstra is adamant about, and that’s the Heat’s 49-34 lead in fouls committed in the series. Despite being outscored by 44 points over the series’ first two games, the Hornets have outscored the Heat 55-34 from the foul line.

“We have to get better at it,” Spoelstra said. “And it’s coming out of their aggressive­ness and attacking us, putting us on our heels. So they’re able to make some plays and put us in some off-balance situations where we’ve been fouling.”

Now the question is if it becomes even more physical, with Clifford hinting that no matter the starting alignment, the Hornets may eventually have to play in Batum’s absence.

“Size in this league is everything,” Clifford said, going beyond the Heat’s Hassan Whiteside. “And it’s not size at center all the time. On their team, obviously they have size at center. But Wade’s big and tall, and Johnson’s big and tall. And they’re seeing over us. So they’re able to make passes into the interior or cross court that puts a lot more pressure on the defense.”

 ??  ?? Clifford
 ?? MICHAEL LAUGHLIN/STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER ?? Miami Heat’s Justise Winslow goes up for a dunk during the second half of their playoff game against the Charlotte Hornets at AmericanAi­rlines Arena on Wednesday.
MICHAEL LAUGHLIN/STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER Miami Heat’s Justise Winslow goes up for a dunk during the second half of their playoff game against the Charlotte Hornets at AmericanAi­rlines Arena on Wednesday.

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