Report: San Antonio Spurs May Replace Tiago Splitter in Starting 5 for Game 5

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistJune 16, 2013

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JUNE 11:  Tiago Splitter #22 of the San Antonio Spurs looks on before taking on the Miami Heat in Game Three of the 2013 NBA Finals at the AT&T Center on June 11, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Miami Heat went small in Game 4 of the NBA Finals and now the San Antonio Spurs may be forced to follow suit in Game 5.

Per Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News, San Antonio's Tiago Splitter might be forced to cede his starting spot to someone else after a regrettable Game 4 performance.

“That's Pop's decision,” Splitter said of being relegated to bench duty. “You cannot blame him for my bad game. I will do whatever I have to do to win a game. If it's to be 48 minutes on the bench, or play 48 minutes, I will.”

Splitter played all of 14 minutes in Game 4, committed three turnovers—one of which came after the Spurs won the opening tip—and had two of his three shot attempts blocked.

Gregg Popovich opened the second half with Boris Diaw at center, who posted a plus-three despite the Spurs inevitably losing by 16 to Splitter's minus-11.

When Pop initially removed the big man early in the first quarter he also went to Neal, who had another strong outing, scoring 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting (3-of-5 from downtown).

It's been suggested that Pop could make a similar change to start Game 5.

“I don't think that would happen,” Diaw answered when asked if he or Neal could start in place of Splitter, “but I wouldn't be surprised at anything with Pop.

Nor would we.

Asked if the Spurs would run with the same starting five in Game 5 as they did in Game 4, Pop indicated he would, though admitted that could change.

Erik Spoelstra started Mike Miller over Udonis Haslem in Game 4, shifting LeBron James to power forward, and the results were staggering.

Though Miller himself was just 0-of-1 from the field, he played a strong defensive game and his presence alone permitted the Heat to space the floor in ways they never could have with Haslem. The switch also allowed LeBron to become a more active defender of Tim Duncan-Tony Parker pick-and-rolls, an added benefit that aided in Miami's 16-point thrashing.

In attempt to combat a smaller lineup with a smaller lineup, replacing Splitter with either Neal or Diaw becomes a strong possibility.

“We know we have a whole team behind us, helping," Splitter admitted. "We have to be smarter and stronger next game.”

Being smarter may entail San Antonio playing without Splitter in the starting five.