AUBURN HILLS, MICH. — Many, including Erik Spoelstra at times, have presented this as an either-or proposition. If Mike Miller plays, James Jones sits. There are only so many minutes to divide among reserve perimeter-oriented players on a Heat team that features two of the world's best starters at those positions.
Yet Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons, for a third straight game, Spoelstra checked Miller and Jones into the game together.
And, later, they were both out there again, during the stretch that the Heat pulled ahead and away.
With LeBron James triggering the offense and Dwyane Wade on the bench, Miller and Jones each made three-pointers during an 18-0 run that helped the Heat overcome a sluggish defensive start, and the ragtag Pistons, in a 100-94 victory.
"Potent," Jones described the lineup.
Let's start with promising.
And let's start with the two reserves, rather than focusing on the starters - even as James, Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 66 points, 19 rebounds and 13 assists. By now, you pretty much know what they're giving you. To beat teams far better than Detroit, however - even on a night that Rip Hamilton (27 points) found his 2004 form - the Heat must get some offensive production from its bench.
Wednesday, the Heat got 22 points from Miller and Jones. They weren't lights out, making 5 of 12 three-pointers, but that shouldn't dim the enthusiasm. They weren't shy, even Miller, who has often been reluctant to fire.
This is what the Heat needs its shooters to give its stars: "Daylight," Jones said.
When they're threats, James, Wade and Bosh have the space to operate.
"We can take advantage of the 'four' guarding me, get him out of the paint, and just open up the floor, so when (they) attack, there aren't too big bodies down there," Jones said.
"When we make a couple shots, make teams pay, they really have to adjust how aggressive they are on our main three guys. Because if they are, me and Mike will just do what we do, shoot open shots."
The criticism of Miller is that he hasn't shot them enough, with no more than three attempts in any of the past five games. This week, after a practice, Spoelstra spoke of the difficult transition that Miller needed to make, from a 32-minute playmaker to more of a part-time stand-still-and-wait shooter, and that it was the coaches' and players' responsibility to help him be more than that, to engage Miller in the offense on the move, in rhythm.
Spoelstra also downplayed any concerns about Miller's misses, saying that "if you only get two or three looks per game, I don't make any evaluation, whether the ball is going in or not. That's not enough of a sample. That's not even fair."
Miller acknowledged the difficulty of so often shooting cold, or sporadically. That's something Jones has done throughout his career, in part due to other limitations.
"My role is not the same as it was in the past, but I knew that before I came here," Miller said. "I've got to go out there and do my job."
Wednesday, Miller made his first three-point attempt of the evening.
Later, he made the one that started the rally. The one at the end of the third quarter.
"We were down five," James said of the start of the fourth quarter. "We looked at the monitor, we were down eight."
That was because a Mike Bibby three-pointer had been erased by the officials, on replay, after the fact.
"It was either go now, or how long were we going to wait?" James said.
The same could have been asked about Miller.
Until Wednesday night, when he and Jones got going together.