Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem’s role against Nets remains uncertain

 
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Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem practices his shot during practice at AmericanAirlines Arena on Friday, May 2, 2014.
Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem practices his shot during practice at AmericanAirlines Arena on Friday, May 2, 2014.
Pedro Portal / El Nuevo Staff
WEB VOTE Which Nets player should the Heat be most concerned about?

bjackson@miamiherald.com

As expected, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was non-committal on Monday about whether Udonis Haslem would remain a starter against a Nets team that has been beginning games with a small lineup featuring Paul Pierce at power forward.

Haslem said he was given no indication if he would move to the bench.

“We haven’t changed anything yet,” Haslem said. “We can adjust. If somebody has to take my spot in the starting lineup, so be it.”

Shane Battier, who would be a natural fit to defend Pierce, said he hasn’t been informed if his role would increase, which seems likely.

Rashard Lewis said he wasn’t told, either.

“I’ll be ready to rock,” said Battier, who played just two minutes in the Heat’s first-round series sweep of Charlotte.

Asked if Haslem would continue to start, Spoelstra said: “We’ll see. We can go whatever way we need to. Whether we start that way or don’t, we’ll go as deep into the rotation as we need to.”

Haslem said he would study tape to prepare himself for the possibility of defending Pierce or Joe Johnson, who has been opening games at small forward instead of shooting guard.

“If I had to guard Pierce, I think I could,” Haslem said. “It would pose a different challenge to me ... but if I get in the film room and put my mind to it, I feel like I have a pretty good opportunity to guard 95, 96 percent of the guys in this league. There are a couple of guys I probably can’t quite keep up with, but the majority of them I can.”

Lewis said there’s value in making the Nets match up to them at times. He expects the Heat will use Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen in tandem on occasion.

The Nets’ bench has hurt the Heat in all four games: Andray Blatche averaged 9.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in just over 21 minutes per game against Miami; Mirza Teletovic had a 17-point outburst in one of the games; Marcus Thornton had a 16-point game; point guard Shaun Livingston (now coming off the bench) had an 11-rebound game versus Miami as a starter.

“The most significant thing is they have great veteran depth,” Spoelstra said. “They can go 12 deep if they need do. We feel we can do the same.”

The Heat needs a strong series from Ray Allen, who shot 5 for 19 in the first round, including 3 for 11 on three-pointers.

•  Besides averaging more than eight points per

game fewer versus Brooklyn than against other teams this season, the Heat also had nearly five-and-a-half fewer possessions per game against the Nets than they did against other teams.

“We played passively all four games against them,” Battier said. “When we are passive, we don’t create turnovers.”

Spoelstra said one challenge is that the Nets “have speed, quickness, length at all the perimeter positions. We need to get out in the open court. They want to grind half-court possessions.”

• Though both sides have said the Nets’ 4-0 series sweep of Heat means nothing in this series, here are two historical factoids to consider: According to Stats Inc., no team that went at least 4-0 against an opponent in the regular season ever lost to that opponent in a best-of-seven playoff series, covering 25 series. (Many teams that were swept 3-0 by a team in the regular season went on to beat that team in postseason.)

And according to Elias, the Nets will be the third team that swept a defending champion to meet that team in a postseason series. In the other two instances, the team that swept the season series (the 1995-96 SuperSonics and 2002-2003 Spurs) beat the defending champ (Rockets and Lakers) and ended up advancing to the NBA Finals.

•  LeBron James, who won the past two MVP awards and four of the past five, said Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant deserves the award. Durant reportedly will be named MVP sometime this week.

“If the reports are correct, kudos to him, much respect there. He deserves it,” James said. “He had a big time MVP season.”

Chris Bosh said of James: “He’s the best player in the world, but you can’t win it every year. Somebody [else] is going to have a good year, too.”

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