Udonis Haslem has only appeared in about half of the Heat’s games this season.
When he does get into the game, he always has made an impact whether he’s playing 10 minutes or 20 minutes. Wednesday was no different when Haslem scored 14 points, collected five rebounds and blocked two shots in 27 minutes of action during the loss to the Celtics.
“He always keeps himself ready,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He knows one way or another that somehow, someway, this time of year and into the playoffs, he has a role.”
Haslem had a lot of success from late March onward last season. He averaged almost six rebounds per game in the last four games of March and more than six rebounds per game in April. In the conference finals against Indiana, Haslem contributed 17 points in a Game 3 win and 16 points in a Game 5 victory.
Spoelstra said with the ever-changing lineup Miami is playing in attempt to keep everyone fresh for the playoffs, the entire team needs to find ways to help the team win. The coach added if anyone embodies that mentality, it’s Haslem.
“We are continuing to emphasize with our group to just contribute and help us win no matter what the rotation is or who is playing,” Spoelstra said. “[Haslem] is the epitome of that.”
Miami has had trouble with big men for most of the season, and Memphis possesses one of the league’s best frontcourts.
Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are both threats in the post with their ability to play with their back to the basket. Spoelstra said Miami will need to match the physicality at the right time in order to force the Grizzlies out of sync.
“You have to meet that with force, with intelligence and with energy,” Spoelstra said. “We have to be overwhelmingly distruptive to get them out of that rhythm of pounding you and just posting you every time.”
The team took the message to heart early in the contest, but was a bit too rough in some spots, picking up three fouls in the first quarter for battling in the paint. To the Heat’s credit, the Grizzlies struggled when running their offense through the post in the first quarter.
LeBron James returned for the Heat after missing Wednesday’s loss in Boston because of back spasms.
James did not speak before the game, but Spoelstra said James told him he was feeling better and that the two days off should help. Wednesday was only the third game LeBron has missed this season, and Miami is 2-1 without its leading scorer.
He looked tentative in the early going Friday, not attacking the basket with his usual fervor and coming up short on a dunk attempt and dropping the ball into the basket instead. That layup was his only two points of the first quarter.
MILLER GETS HIS RING
Grizzlies guard Mike Miller received his championship ring from the 2012-13 season before Friday night’s contest.
The team played a video montage of Miller’s highlights from his time in Miami, including his 23-point performance in Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals against Oklahoma City and his 15-point effort in Game 3 against San Antonio in last season’s NBA Finals. The relatively full crowd gave him a standing ovation with a lot of raucous cheers during the montage.