There's something sacred about the postseason, in a way that really gets to coaches. They'll go from starting a player for weeks to banishing him to the end of the bench for the same amount of time during the regular season, seemingly on a whim. They'll mess around with starting lineups and rotations and attempt things that don't often make sense, just to try and find either that perfect starting five, or the most effective 10-man rotation.
But once the playoffs hit, coaches are loath to shake up the rotation, much less the starting lineup. Whatever tips off in the third week of April usually sticks as the starting five, provided that everyone stays healthy, until the end of a team's playoff run. Because if it was good enough for April 17, it's good enough for June 21. I suppose.
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, thankfully, doesn't suppose that. There is overwhelming evidence that points to the fact that Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Mike Bibby should be bit players in the Heat's attack. They haven't really done well individually, not even offensively, and as a unit with Miami's troika of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, Big Z and Bib-by are stinking it up.
And defensive-minded Joel Anthony and Mario Chalmers are not. Anthony still leads the NBA in plus/minus during the postseason, and Chalmers' defense and good-enough shooting (hitting for the league average from behind the arc during the playoffs) are making a huge difference. With those two in the Heat's lineup, with the All-Stars around them, the Heat are outscoring opponents by 36 points for every 48 minutes they play. That's like a Mavericks/Lakers Game 4.
After deflecting the subject of a lineup change several times amid his team's uneven starts to games this postseason, Spoelstra offered a more evenhanded response Sunday.
Asked about his team consistently playing from behind with a starting lineup that this postseason has featured point guard Mike Bibby and center Zydrunas Ilgauskas flanking LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, Spoelstra said, "I'm looking at everything right now and I'll continue to look at that for the next day."
He followed up by saying of the team's practice session at Emerson College, "We walked through quite a different amount of situations, different lineups."
This is for the best, especially if Rajon Rondo attempts to play with one arm again. Miami needs Chalmers to bring a more active brand of defense, and nearly splitting the minutes (as Bibby and Mario have done) just isn't working. Even if Bibby starts to double-up his 23 percent shooting from the floor.
Ilgauskas' minutes per game, around 12, are just fine. In fact, it isn't the worst thing in the world if he continues to start, especially if Joel Anthony's game night rhythm prefers that. Because Big Z would be getting his 12 minutes a contest regardless of whether he started or not.
And in a season that has seen Erik Spoelstra coaching from a Pat Riley-created box, it's nice to see him juggling things up. Even if he might be a few weeks too late.