DALLAS -- DeShawn Stevenson understood the move to the bench Tuesday night despite starting every previous game of the playoffs. And he sees no reason to go back after the Dallas Mavericks knotted the NBA Finals at 2-2 by nipping the Miami Heat, 86-83, in a must-win Game 4.
"We need anything," Stevenson said of the switch to J.J. Barea in the starting lineup. "We went with that and just got to keep going with it."
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle's decision to change up the rotation wasn't just about swapping Stevenson for Barea. Carlisle also had to manage the minutes of a fever-stricken Dirk Nowitzki and an overworked Shawn Marion.
Brian Cardinal was the first big off the bench, stealing 7 1/2 minutes. Brendan Haywood tried to give it a go before realizing his hip wasn't going to allow it. Barea missed some open looks, but scored eight and was praised by Nowitzki for his gritty play. It wasn't the prettiest of performances at times for the Mavs, but the matchups worked out in the end.
"We all came out and stayed with it," Stevenson said. "It says a lot about our ballclub."
The combination of Jason Kidd, Marion and Stevenson limited LeBron James to a pedestrian eight points on 3-of-11 shooting. Chris Bosh scored only two points in the fourth quarter. Heat role players Mike Biddy, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers had little to no impact on the game. Dwyane Wade had 32 points, but also botched Miami's final possession.
Carlisle refused to give himself credit for the coaching adjustments.
"The players play the game," he said. "And the guys you put out there, they got to be ready. This time of year we've done a lot of shuffling with the lineup because of the matchups. It's hard. You're talking about two guys with great size, dynamic, athleticism. Three, really, with Bosh. They have other guys that are underrated athletically.
"Look, everybody has to be ready, and our game has to be a team game. We're not going to outrun or outjump these guys. But we've got to play a sound game, we've got to play a persistent game. It was tough. We had are a lot of shots that were there that didn't go tonight. But the guys kept believing. They kept battling. And then the defense in the fourth held us in and we were able to get out of here alive."
Stevenson also provided some of the offensive punch that's been lacking for the Mavs. He scored all 11 of his points in the second quarter, knocking down three 3-pointers. Those shots have been there in the corner throughout the series for Stevenson, Kidd and Jason Terry when the Heat pre-rotate off Nowitzki.
"When we knock those down it's the ballgame," said Stevenson, who shot 3-of-7 from beyond the arc.
Despite not starting, Carlisle stuck with Stevenson down the stretch over Barea and Marion. Stevenson ended up playing 26 minutes -- four more than Barea -- and added three rebounds. More than his offensive spark -- which was critical -- Stevenson was on the court because of what he provides at the other end.
"We picked them up full court," Stevenson said. "We have to be into those guys. Dwyane Wade is playing awesome right now. We have to get into him [and] LeBron. When we make it tough for them and take care of the ball, it makes it tough for them to score."
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