Heat notebook

Starting Udonis Haslem in first half of Game 2 pays dividends defensively for Miami Heat against Indiana Pacers

 

jgoodman@MiamiHerald.com

The Heat’s big lineup adjustment for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals helped limit the Pacers to 33 percent shooting in the first half.

Needing a dose of toughness to match the Pacers’ rugged frontcourt, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra inserted veteran big man Udonis Haslem into his starting lineup for Game 2 after starting Shane Battier in Game 1. The move didn’t help much offensively, but the Heat limited the Pacers to 21 points in the first quarter after Indiana scored 30 points in the first 12 minutes of Game 1.

“We understand that disposition, urgency and all these type of activity things have to be raised to a different level for us,” Spoelstra said before the game.

The Heat has rotated Battier and Haslem in its starting lineup throughout the playoffs. Haslem started the four games against the Charlotte Bobcats to begin the postseason, and Battier was the Heat’s starting power forward against the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference semifinals. While Haslem started Game 2, Battier was an important contributor off the bench.

Spoelstra went with Haslem to begin the second half of Game 1 after the Pacers’ big first quarter. Indiana shot 61.1 percent from the field in the first period and was 5 of 6 from three-point range in Game 1. In Game 2, Indiana was 8 of 21 from the field in the first quarter and 1 of 3 from three-point range.

“I would like to think that my guys have a little more confidence when I’m in there,” Haslem said.

Haslem pointed out before the game that he has provided the Heat with varying degrees of toughness during the playoffs in the last few years. He was suspended against the Pacers for a hard foul in 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals.

“Whatever it takes,” Haslem said. “We all know that Indiana is a physical team. It’s going to be a physical matchup, so hopefully I get the opportunity to bring a little more physicality to our lineup.”

CONFIDENCE BOOST

The extra playing time Pacers center Roy Hibbert received in Game 1 boosted his confidence level, according to Pacers coach Frank Vogel. Hibbert was averaging 25.7 minutes per game entering the Eastern Conference finals, but played more than 38 minutes against the Heat on Sunday.

“He’s playing with good confidence right now, and I think the rotation were using where he’s playing a lot of minutes helps that, and he’s going to continue to play well,” Vogel said.

Still, Vogel was quick to defend his inconsistent center just in case he had a sudden drop off in the series.

“This team targets Roy Hibbert,” Vogel said. “So, if he were to come out and not have a big scoring night, I think it would be something that I think we would be more a credit to their defense then to Roy losing confidence or whatever.”

THIS AND THAT

•  Chris Bosh went 0 of 5 from three-point range and 4 of 12 from the field in Game 1, but Vogel said is defense didn’t have much to do with those low numbers.

“We can’t give him open looks,” Vogel said. “We’ve got to be sharper with our coverages and make sure we’re getting to them. He’s too good a player, and we see him as a great threat.”

Spoelstra wasn’t worried about Bosh finding his form entering Game 2.

“There are ups and downs and highs and lows during every playoff run and Chris has always been one of our most consistent guys,” Spoelstra said. “He’s our most important guy in so many things that we do.

“He’ll find a way to impact the game, and that might be scoring and it might not. It might be other things.”

• The Pacers started each of their preliminary playoff rounds in a 0-1 hole before defeating the Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. That victory also represented the Pacers’ first Game 1 victory against the Heat since meeting up every postseason since 2012.

“We understand that confidence is a little fool’s gold,” Pacers forward Paul George said. “We’ve gotten to high on ourselves and kind of relaxed and took a step back going into the next game. Going against this team, it’s one win and it didn’t really mean much. We’re doing technically what we’re supposed to be doing on our home court.”

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