MIAMI -- It appeared the Miami Heat were gearing up for the postseason.
Instead, coach Erik Spoelstra claimed he was just riding the hot players.
Spoelstra shortened his rotation to eight players in Saturday's victory against the New York Knicks, but said it was a product of the circumstances. The Heat normally use 10 players during the regular season before adjusting in the playoffs.
"I was planning on going a little bit deeper into the rotation," Spoelstra said. "I really want to interject Greg (Oden) for sure. I just couldn't get to it so we just played eight. I wouldn't read too much into it. The rhythm and continuity was going well."
The play of Shane Battier, especially in the first half, was part of the reason for the change. Battier played the entire first quarter, making three 3-pointers. He also helped limit Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony to eight first-half points.
"The way Shane started out was vintage Shane Battier," Spoelstra said. "I certainly wasn't planning on playing him the whole first quarter. He was a playing well. He was in a rhythm on both ends of the court. I just let it roll. We kind of missed out on our normal rotation."
The move at least allowed the Heat to experience a shortened rotation before it becomes the norm in late April. Among the casualties were Oden, Rashard Lewis and Michael Beasley.
"You kind of understand when you get to playoff time you go to a solid eight-man rotation," guard Dwyane Wade said. "... I thought it was a great move by (Spoelstra) to kind of tighten things up. We needed it."
Wrestling with Battier
So why did Battier have so much success defending Anthony in the first half?
He said he simply flashed back to sixth grade when he won the city wrestling championship in the 135-pound division.
"It's not as impressive as my look in a singlet," Battier joked. "I retired the singlet back in sixth grade. No mas. No mas."
After saying he prayed "to all the gods" the night before the game, Battier refused to take too much credit. Anthony, after all, did eventually get going in the second half.
"You just make him work," Battier said. "I played against Carmelo enough to understand who he is. The game last year where he scored 50 against us he didn't score a basket in the paint. He had a game (Saturday) where he missed some shots that he normally makes. I've played with him long enough where it all balances out in the end."
Battier also finished with a season-high 16 points.
"I got great passes," Battier said. "Every catch I had was in rhythm. The shot clock was winding down so my teammates were expecting me to shoot it. It's always nice to get off to get a good start.
LeBron downplays tackle
Despite being asked repeatedly about it, James refused to make a big deal of being tackled by Anthony in the third quarter.
Anthony tried to slow James on a fastbreak but wound up hurling him to the floor. James said there was no attempt to injure him on the play.
"That's not the first time I've been tackled," James said. "...He was just trying to wrap me up."
James was then asked about the play three more times. He declined to answer, saying he didn't want to deflect attention from the team's solid overall performance.
"I'm not going to get caught up in that and try to make that the story," James said. "The way we played was the story of the game."
(c)2014 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services