Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle made a rather big adjustment for Game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals, trailing the Miami Heat 2-1: he changed his starting lineup. Dallas' starting five has been rather fluid since the team lost Caron Butler in January; it seems almost every combination wings has gotten a chance to shine. But the Mavericks had success all postseason with a Jason Kidd-DeShawn Stevenson backcourt. For Game 4, Carlisle replaced Stevenson, a defender, with reserve J.J. Barea, a scoring guard roughly an inch or so taller than Nate Robinson. In the same stroke, Carlisle elevated Brian Cardinal over Peja Stojakovic in the rotation.
How'd it work out? Barea continued to struggle; he came into the game shooting 5-23 in the Finals, and hit just three of nine shots in 22 minutes in Game 4. The Mavericks were outscored by seven points in Barea's minutes, all of which came with Dirk Nowitzki also on the floor. But Stevenson actually flourished in a bench role, at least in the second quarter.
In the second, Stevenson scored 11 points on 3-4 shooting; he hit three three-pointers and two free throws, and helped Dallas stay in a dogfight with Miami. He couldn't keep it going for his long fourth quarter appearance -- he played all 12 minutes, most of them next to Kidd -- as he shot 0-3 in the final frame and his primary assignment, Dwyane Wade, pushed Miami to a near-win. But on the whole, Stevenson did better playing in the second and fourth quarters almost exclusively, countering the ill effects of more Barea.
As for Cardinal: in seven minutes, he did about as much as Peja has done in this series, which is to say he basically did nothing.