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NBA Playoffs: Udonis Haslem is back. Miami just got better.

May 19, 2011, 12:31 AM EDT

Miami Heat's Udonis Haslem celebrates a basket against the Chicago Bulls during Game 2 of their NBA Eastern Conference Finals playoff basketball game in Chicago Reuters

When the Heat roster was in upheaval this summer, clearing out cap space to chase a three-man dream team, Udonis Haslem was a free agent. A free agent drawing interest from around the league because every team could use a forward who will do the dirty work and can bury the midrange jumper.

To show how badly they wanted to keep him, pretty much the entire Heat organization showed up for a surprise birthday party at Haslem’s place. Then to show how much they wanted him, each of the Heat’s “big three” took less money so Haslem could be signed to a fair offer.

Wednesday night you saw why.

When the rest of the Heat struggled in the third quarter, Haslem seemed to be everywhere. He shot 4-of-4 in the third quarter (as the first big off the bench) including a couple midrange jumpers, he had a blocked shot, an emphatic dunk, drew a charge and just seemed to be everywhere. After missing most of the season due to a foot injury (he was out from Nov. 20 to the Boston series), you saw how much they needed him. How much they missed him.

For one stretch of more than 11 minutes between the third and fourth quarters, Haslem was the only Heat player to score. He hit 2-of-4 from beyond 16 feet on offense and contested Derrick Rose shots at the rim on defense. He kept them in it and made the fourth quarter run and the Heat win possible.

In the first half he played more than 12 minutes, and the Bulls didn’t grab one offensive rebound in that stretch (they had six before that). He brought the toughness inside that Miami lacked in Game 1 and Zydrunis Ilgauskas is not about to bring.

Haslem changed the game, and the series.

“Now I question myself for not trying him earlier, but there was an incredible unknown,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We hadn’t seen him in a game, our practices at this point are not quite as long as they were midseason. But two days ago before practice I talked with him and there was something, a look in his eye, and I knew it was time.”

The Heat’s backup big men were not able to match the activity level of Taj Gibson and Omer Asik in Game 1, but in Game 2 Haslem did that. He balanced that part of the scales.

He also got very tired at the end, showing the expected conditioning issues after missing so much time. Spoelstra can’t lean on him for heavy minutes, the 23 he played this game were a couple too many.

But he can lean on Haslem. His Heat teammates can lean on Haslem. And that is a huge boost for this team.

  1. andrejohnsonforpresident - May 19, 2011 at 1:51 AM

    Hmmmm very interesting.. This series keeps getting better and better.. Heck with dirk putting up a record performance the night before, these playoffs are getting way more interesting!!! It’s great having such uncertainty in these payoffs, I’m sure Charles Barkley himself is even confused as to who will meet in the championship!!!

  2. rickmirer - May 19, 2011 at 2:09 AM

    U.D. was everything the Heat needed, him and Anthony going after rebounds fixed the problems of game 1. Bosh is great, (I know a lot of people don’t like him right now) he’ll get rebounds, but not like Haslem and Anthony can. This team can only get better if healthy.

    • andrejohnsonforpresident - May 19, 2011 at 12:09 PM

      Cant forget D-wade had 8 boards and Lebron had 9 himself. Haslem is a great addition though.

  3. hnirobert3 - May 19, 2011 at 7:46 AM

    It was interesting seeing the lineup the Heat went with to start the 4th: Miller, Wade, LBJ, Haslem and Bosh. This is what Riles envisioned. I really hope Spo wises up and starts someone other than Anthony going forward. Anthony is better coming off the bench and he just cannot line up with Noah who continue to be a beast.

  4. gmsingh - May 19, 2011 at 8:45 AM

    Haslem looks like their secret weapon, because Wade looks like he needs to spend most of his time on the bench at this point. Unless Red Bull comes in a gallon size.

    • Milton Galfas - May 19, 2011 at 11:34 AM

      Why would anyone put one of the top 5 players in the NBA on the bench? DO you hear what you just said?

  5. chicago240 - May 19, 2011 at 8:51 AM

    Haslem was terrific. Both sides had great D. Lebron closed. But when you shoot 3 for 20 from 3 point range when most of those 3 attempts are reallllly good looks, you don’t deserve to win (Deng/Rose 1-10). If your superstar scores 2 points in the 4th, you probably don’t deserve to win. And if your max contract player plays 27 minutes and is sitting on the bench in the 4th after POURING in 7 points for the game, you also deserve to lose. It was painful to watch. But if I’ve seen anything this year, it’s Rose bouncing back from that kind of a performance with fire and leading his team in the next game. Stay tuned.

  6. coltsfanindc - May 19, 2011 at 9:03 AM

    is gmsmith watching Wade or videos of himself from high-school? wade was tired in game 1 at the end but not last night.

  7. coltsfanindc - May 19, 2011 at 9:05 AM

    gmsingh, wade had the 2nd most points of the game for both teams n u want him on the bench??? yikes

    • southbeachtalent - May 19, 2011 at 12:15 PM

      I think he meant “I wish Wade would spend more time on the bench”. Wade is a baller get over it gmsingh. Life goes on.

  8. Milton Galfas - May 19, 2011 at 11:35 AM

    Haslem learned from Shaq and now Haslem can teach LB and Bosh how to win big games.

  9. midnite2020 - May 19, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    (SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT) drugs in the united states have now gone to far wade off the bench please son get some help put the blunt down throw that needle in the trash please wade of the bench? it will be ok son just say no

    • snoopy2014 - May 19, 2011 at 12:59 PM

      He’s a Bulls fan, he’s just messing with you guys. It’s some form of strange trash talking. No one seriously thinks Wade should go to the bench.

      • philtration - May 19, 2011 at 10:04 PM

        What he was saying is that Wade looks tired and that is why he mentioned Red Bull.
        Wade does look tired.
        Everyone looks tired at this point in the season.

  10. snoopy2014 - May 19, 2011 at 12:58 PM

    Haslem is an absolute beast. Can’t stand the Heat, but Haslem has been one of my favorite players for years. He’s one of those guys you just peg as “championship guys” before they ever win a title. Incredible defense (both individual and help), boards and energy off the bench. If Taj Gibson keeps improving, he could one day be to the Bulls what Haslem is to the Heat.

    Hate Shaq if you want, but Haslem was the perfect frontcourt partner to Shaq during their deep runs in 05 and 06. Just does a little of everything you want to see in a successful organization.

    • Waxxx4321 - May 19, 2011 at 1:27 PM

      yeah but Haslem already has a title with the heats first championship.

      • snoopy2014 - May 19, 2011 at 3:46 PM

        I know, I meant some people label players as “championship-style” players only after they win a ring (e.g. James Posey) and overrate them. I just meant Haslem has always had this type of game, and I’m not overrating him because of his one title.

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