INDIANAPOLIS -- Udonis Haslem was nonexistent offensively in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals. He knew he was going to get an opportunity to change that heading into Game 3.
Haslem delivered in Miami’s 114-96 win on Sunday in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. scoring a season-high 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting.
“We’ve been watching film and saw some adjustments we could make,” Haslem said. “Credit my guys for finding me and I just shot it with confidence.”
Haslem made his first five shots and all four attempts in the first quarter as the Heat made quick work of the Pacers to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.
“When our bench and role players are playing well, we’re very tough to beat,” Miami center Chris Bosh said. “It started out with [Haslem] and he got us off to a great start.”
It wasn’t anything fancy, just simple offensive execution for Haslem. Six of his made field goals were midrange baseline jumpers, some from ball rotation and others after Indiana defenders collapsing to stop drives to the basket.
Haslem equaled his season-high of 13 points by halftime as Miami took a commanding 70-56 lead. In the regular season Haslem scored in double figures just six times, with his season-high coming against Washington on Dec. 15.
Double-digit offensive production is even more rare for Haslem against Indiana. In the first two games of the series, Haslem made just one field goal and scored three points. He scored just four points in three regular season games against the Pacers, going scoreless twice.
“He had missed a couple of those [jumpers] in Games 1 and 2, but we encouraged him to keep taking those shots,” Bosh said. “He knocked some down and got us off to a great start. His momentum really propelled us.”
In the second half, Haslem made sure the momentum remained on Miami’s side. Indiana opened the third quarter on an 11-2 run to cut the Heat’s lead to seven points, 74-67.
Haslem then found himself wide open again on the baseline, making two jumpers in a short span to fuel Miami’s 15-6 run which put the Heat ahead 89-73, and the Pacers never made another serious threat.
Drifting toward the baseline forced Indiana’s post players to make a decision: remain in the paint to be a disruptive force, or close out on Haslem. The Pacers didn’t close out on Haslem and paid the price, as Miami designed.
“We have guys that are going to attack and get to the rim, but they have so much size you have to have guys that can spread out the floor,” Haslem said. “I tried to get to my spacing and make that big make a decision.”
Haslem also added seven rebounds and spent time guarding Indiana All-Star Paul George, who finished with 13 points on 3 of 10 shooting. His performance on Sunday helps erase a lowly Game 2, where he played just 13 minutes and missed his only field goal attempt, finishing with one point.
After averaging 3.9 points during the regular season, and missing four of the final five games with a sprained ankle, Haslem was averaging 5.4 points in the playoffs.
“I always want to contribute however I can, and tonight was by making shots,” Haslem said. “It’s good to just to get a win. My contribution is not always going to be making shots. Sometimes it’s getting 15 rebounds, sometimes it will be by taking a charge, whatever the situation may be.”