Shane Battier did not shoot well in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs. He was 0-3, all from downtown, the one prescribed thing for him to do scoring-wise offensively. The thinking goes that if Battier isn't hitting threes, there's no way he can be out there, because the spacing allows the Spurs to cheat further and further in, attacking LeBron James.
That thinking is wrong. Battier must play more than six minutes on Sunday, he needs to play significantly more minutes, and Erik Spoelstra is going to have to look past whatever context he's using to keep Battier on a short leash and get him on the floor.
The key is not about any specific thing Battier does, it's his overall impact on the game. He's the player diving for loose balls. He's the player making deflections on passes. Battier is the one player on the Heat outside of LeBron James who combines the cerebral understanding of defensive principles with the muscle and effort to make an impact. Battier's presence on the floor gives Miami a cerebral edge and shifts the game towards a defensive style, as opposed to an offensive one.
The Heat don't want to get into an offensive sharpshooting contest with the Spurs. They need to muscle, bully and strategically target the Spurs' offense to create opportunities on the other end for themselves. Battier is their (second) best weapon to do that.
Mike Miller's effort is awesome. The effort he gives, when you look at the shell he is physically, is crazy, and his ability to come up big and hit huge shots was a big reason the Heat won the the title last season. But Miller should be a complementary component, not a primary one. Battier's ability to make an effort in so many places is something Ray Allen spoke to on Friday.
"Shane came in the game last night and altered shots, grabbed loose balls, he got second-chance opportunites and had a great impact on the game," the Heat sharpshooter said.
Allen said that the difficulty sometimes in minutes allotment is how it counters what the opponent is doing.
"You have to watch the game. Sometimes offensively you have to watch the rotation of their guys. At this point we know our guys and what they're doing. It's just important that you inject those guys in those positions. Foul trouble is a factor But it's hard to say who should play at any particular moment."
But Battier is not a player who should be playing at specific moments, he should be getting more run overall. He can switch in pick and roll situations to combat the Spurs' perimeter weapons. He can help down and recover. He can help with rebounds and control key possessions.
The Heat need smart players in this series, they're facing one of the smartest teams ever assembled from a basketball standpoint. Battier spoke to that point Friday.
"Both teams pride themselves on being very advanced schmetaically," Battier said, "and it's going to come down to possessions. If you're a thinking man or woman, this is your series. "
Battier's ready to go but wasn't going near the idea of demanding playing time.
"I can't control what the rotation is, I can control what I can control. When I'm thrown in the fire, make some noise, That's all I can do."
What Erik Spoelstra can do is not relegate Battier to a specialist and instead lean on one of the healthier wing reserves he has to make an impact in Game 2. The Heat preach process all the time, so why then should Spoelstra get worked up over the results of a few shots, particularly when two were rattle-in-and-out shots for Battier?
The Heat need all hands on deck to avoid going down 0-2 and effectively ending the series going back to San Antonio for three games. But they need a bigger hand from Battier than what we saw in Game 1.