Rashard Lewis becoming key fourth contributor for Miami Heat

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SAN ANTONIO — Rashard Lewis has been on the big stage before — he dropped 34 points (plus had 11 rebounds and 7 assists) in the NBA Finals as a member of the Orlando Magic.

But that was five years ago. That was a very different Rashard Lewis. The Rashard Lewis of 2014 could barely get off the Heat bench much of the season. He looked to be one of those Heat veteran gambles that didn’t pay off. He didn’t figure in the Heat’s playoff plans…

Until Erik Spoelstra started him at the four to space out the Pacers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It worked.

And it has continued to work in the Finals against the Spurs.

Lewis had 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting, 3-of-7 from three in the Heat’s Game 2 win. Nobody really saw this coming, but Lewis has taken over the role Mike Miller did for the Heat last year — not in terms of role within in the offense, but in terms of being a trusted fourth scorer and someone who can space the floor with threes.

“Rashard has been huge for us ever since he’s been inserted into our starting lineup, from the Indiana series,” LeBron James said. “He’s been in this position before. He’s been to the Finals with the Orlando Magic. He’s been in huge playoff games, and his experience and ability to knock down shots helps us out a lot. It spreads the floor for us, and every time he catches the ball, we tell him just to shoot it. Don’t think about nothing else besides shooting the ball, and we live with his results.”

Lewis spaces the floor and pulls a potential rim protecting big out of the paint. He’s a pressure release valve, one the Heat have gone to a few times this series.

What’s impressive is that he was ready to go when called upon.

“Rashard at times this year wasn’t playing, but he kept himself ready,” Spoelstra said. “And you can’t just step into an environment if you’re not putting in hours and hours of time behind the scenes.”

Lewis, at age 34, has accepted his role on this Heat team.

And that could be key to the Heat getting a three-peat for Pat Riley.

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