For those just tuning in, it might not seem as if much has changed since June. The Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs are both back in the title hunt, featuring a lot of familiar faces.
But if you look closely, the Heat are bigger than they might appear.
Rewind to June 14, 2012, when the Heat topped the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. With Chris Bosh medically cleared to play regular minutes, coach Erik Spoelstra famously went unconventional and replaced Udonis Haslem, not Shane Battier, with Bosh. While the Thunder stayed big with Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins in the frontcourt, Spoelstra decided to go in the other direction: spread the floor and keep Battier in rather than stick with a traditional two-bigs lineup.
The rest is history. With Bosh at the 5, the Heat won the next four games for title No. 1, then won again last season against the Spurs for title No. 2. Really, until Game 2 in the 2012 Finals, Spoelstra had largely run out another traditional big to complement the team's star trio. Remember the Erick Dampier era? That approach was quickly trashed.
Going "unconventional" became Spoelstra's battle cry. But this season, big is the new small in Miami. With a chance at title No. 3, the Heat have quietly reverted back to the two-bigs strategy for large segments of the game.
And it has worked.