A 6’7″ center is usually a sign you’re watching Big West basketball.
Or, the Miami Heat/Toronto Raptors series.
Since Hassan Whiteside sprained his right MCL, Miami has had their best success this series with a small ball lineup where rookie Justise Winslow plays center. All 6’7″ of him. Miami can get away with it because Toronto’s seven-footer Bismack Biyombo isn’t an offensive threat. In Friday’s Game 6 win Winslow was the center on key lineups that were +7 in 21 minutes. And they did a surprisingly good job of protecting the rim.
So Sunday for Game 7, expect a lot more Winslow at the five. He is ready for it, he told the Sun Sentinel.
He conceded that playing inside left him a little bit more sore than he typically is after games, but deadpanned, “That’s what ice is for” when asked late Friday about how he felt physically.
“I pretty much approach every game the same way, but just knowing that I’m going to be at a different position doing different things, [you] just have to really lock in and focus on what the team needed me to do,” Winslow said. “It was Game 6, backs to the wall and I didn’t want to go down not swinging. That was pretty much my mentality and I’ll approach Game 7 the same way.”
The key to Game 7 may be how Toronto guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan can attack that small ball lineup by getting inside, and if they get any help from the role players around them. Miami knows what it wants to do; Erik Spoelstra has a rotation he likes (or can live with), and he has veteran players who know how to close out series. The pressure is on Toronto to prove they are ready for the next step.