the Miami Heat (2-3) are in do-or-die territory entering Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals against the boston celtics on Friday, May 27. With starting point guard Kyle Lowry playing like a shell of his former self and Max Strus in a deep shooting slump, Heat fans figured head coach erik spoelstra would shake things up.
Over the last two games, Strus has shot 0-for-16 from the field and 0-for-11 from beyond the arc. As for Lowry, who’s playing through a hamstring injury, he’s shot 5-of-23 in the series, going 0-6 in Game 5 with zero assists and committing five fouls and three turnovers.
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Despite these stats and despite the fact that Lowry limped off the team bus on May 26, Spoelstra made it clear on Friday morning that there would be no changes to the starting lineup for Game 6, according to a tweet from Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
The Heat’s starting five against the Celtics will be business as usual: Lowry, Strus, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and PJ Tucker. While there was speculation that maybe Spoelstra was putting up a smokescreen with the announcement, the Heat’s official Twitter account confirmed the starting lineup 30 minutes before typoff.
“These are tough decisions. We’re going with that lineup,” Spoelstra said, by Winderman. “It’s been a really successful lineup.”
“This is a fast-moving series,” Spoelstra said. “And that happens with two competitive teams: Who can get to who? Who can get to their strengths more often? Who can take the other team out of their strengths?
“It’s a fine line between doing those things and making adjustments. But that’s part of the deal.”
Many Heat Fans Gave Up Hope Around After Learning There Would Be No Lineup Changes
While Heat fans want nothing more than a Miami comeback in Game 6, learning that Coach Spo was keeping Strus and Lowry in the starting lineup rather backup Gabe Vincent (55 points in the conference finals) took the wind out of their sails.
“Great coach but stubborn as f***,” to Heat fan tweeted. “I’m no coach so my words mean nothing but like common sense dictates that something gotta change with that starting five and it being potentially the last game… why not switch it up???”
Strus could break out of his offensive slump. Winderman tweeted: “Max Strus said he has endured similar shooting slumps before. He said he has gotten out of them by ‘making shots.’ In other words, the time for talk is over.”
Lowry is clearly not at full health, however, and his inability to facilitate plays is hurting the entire team. Starting Lowry seems even more perplexing given that Vincent outplayed him in Game 5. In 23 minutes of play, Vincent put up 15 points, with two rebounds, two assists and one steal.
NBA Analysts Respectfully Suggest the Heat Bench Lowry for Game 6
Despite the fact that Lowry’s one of the best point guards in the NBA, was crucial in the Heat entering the postseason as the No. 1 seed and has a wealth of playoff experienceit’s clear his hamstring is affecting his ability to deliver on the court.
According to May 25 tweet from the Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang“Tonight was the first game in Kyle Lowry’s NBA career that did not record a point or an assist in while playing more than 15 minutes.”
Though the Heat signed Lowry, 36, to a three-year, $85 million contract last offseason to help get them to the playoffs quicklyit appears that with his nagging injury he can’t help carry them any longer.
In fact, The Athletic’s Joe Vardon urged the Heat to bench Lowry for Game 6.
“Sitting him in the most important game of the season is not a decision to be made lightly,” Vardon wrote, “and the star in Lowry, the fighter, the champion and the ego that comes along with all of those things, would object. (vehemently) to the idea.
“But playing with a hamstring injury is such an exposing, degrading experience,” Vardon wrote. “Lowry, like those who have tried before him, is moving much slower than he is used to, is tentative to make cuts, zoom around screens, push in transition and scramble on defense… It’s a suffocating feeling to know how he appears on the court, and the numbers next to his name on the stat sheet, are not the real him. They’re the hamstring talking.”
Yahoo! Sports Chris Haynes agreed with Vardon.
“Vincent has proven to be the better option at this point,” Haynes wrote on May 26, “but Lowry possesses a wealth of postseason experience that is almost certainly factoring into the equation.
“The veteran has earned his respect throughout his prolific career, but it might be time for Spoelstra to make him earn his minutes for this postseason,” Haynes concluded.