The Miami Heat went into the season with their set nine man rotation that was returning from a year ago. Their starting lineup was still going to be Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Udonis Haslem and Chris Bosh. Their four bench players that would see the bulk of the action were still going to be Norris Cole, Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Chris Andersen.
However, with early injuries to Wade, Haslem and Allen, the Heat reached deep into their bench and were able to get great production from former All-Star Rashard Lewis and former No. 2 overall pick Michael Beasley. Beasley has been in the rotation for the last nine games and has averaged 11.5 points per game. He has also shot 55.7 percent from the field and is proving to be a key for the Heat to win instead of a luxury.
With Beasley getting the bulk of the minutes, the Heat have moved Battier into the starting lineup and Haslem completely out of the rotation. Haslem, who is a team captain, missed four games with an injury before returning on November 19. He played only eight minutes that game and then only six minutes the next game. Even though Haslem went 4-for-5 from the field in those two games, coach Erik Spoelstra has made him a healthy scratch over the last three games to keep Beasley in the rotation.
With Battier sitting out Wednesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Heat opted to start Lewis in his place instead of Haslem. Lewis played 22 minutes and Beasley played 26. The biggest surprise of the game came late in the fourth quarter. The Heat usually go with a lineup of Chalmers, Allen, Wade, James and Bosh to close out games. On Wednesday, the Heat used that same lineup except they had Beasley in and Allen on the bench.
The size of Cleveland may have prompted Spoelstra to stay away from their small lineup, but the play of Beasley was also a factor. He finished the game with 17 points on 5-for-10 shooting and went 7-for-7 from the free throw line. He also finished with a season-high nine rebounds, which had been a part of the game he was struggling with. Beasley finished with the second highest plus/minus on the team with a +11, trailing only the +17 of Wade.
With an aging roster Beasley was expected to be used to give guys a night off or if the offense was lacking. It is now looking like he will be a major part of the rotation for the remainder of the season, and Battier and Haslem may find their minutes limited if they play at all.