Are elite bigs Miami's kryptonite?

The numbers show good centers hurt Miami far less than we believe

Originally Published: April 10, 2012
By Tom Haberstroh | ESPN Insider
Joel AnthonyDavid Butler II/US PresswireGarnett has foiled the Heat, but it doesn't mean the Heat can't beat an elite big man.

MIAMI -- The Heat are well aware of Boston's new look with Kevin Garnett at the 5.

With Jermaine O'Neal out for the season, the Celtics have been forced to go unconventional and start the 35-year-old Garnett at the center position. The Heat have seen this arrangement plenty, but that doesn't mean they have the riddle solved.

The results speak for themselves. Of all the Boston lineups that have killed the Heat this season, there is one constant: Garnett at the 5. Against the Celtics this season, the Heat have been outscored by eight points with Garnett at the center slot. With Garnett at power forward? The Heat's fortunes swing the other way, winning by 10 points in about 22 minutes of action. That's an 18-point swing, depending on Garnett's designation in the lineup.

As Bradford Doolittle points out, the tweak to stick Garnett at the center slot has turned Boston's season from hopeless to relentless, and its success against Miami isn't just a random blip. Spoelstra has studied the issue at length, hoping he can reverse a growing trend on Tuesday, but it won't be easy. The key? Spacing.