Even LeBron James thought Udonis Haslem was starting. Turns out, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had different ideas about how to attack the Indiana Pacers.
In a surprise move, Spoelstra started Shane Battier at power forward to stretch the floor and help neutralize some of Indiana’s height inside.
It didn’t exactly work.
The Pacers outscored the Heat 55-45 in the first half, and Spoelstra benched Battier and stated Haslem to begin the second half.
“I don’t know if that had an effect or not,” Spoelstra said of starting Battier. “I believe Shane’s overall number was still a positive, but our overall disposition has to be much tougher, much stronger. There’s no question about it, regardless of who we have out on the court.”
Starting Haslem in the second half didn’t really work either.
The Pacers went on a 6-0 midway through the third quarter and pushed its lead to 18 points. At that point, Spoelstra brought Battier off the bench for Chris Bosh. From a strategic standpoint, it was all very confusing. Spoelstra said he went with Haslem “to give us a little bit of size up front and see if we can get some stops and play off misses.”
“Neither half it worked out.”
Spoelstra was non-committal about who would start in the days leading up to the Eastern Conference finals. Meanwhile, James was so sure that Haslem would start against Pacers center Roy Hibbert. Haslem sat out the Heat’s series against the Brooklyn Nets, but it was widely assumed that he would slide into that role against the Pacers. Haslem started the Heat’s first series against Al Jefferson and the Charlotte Bobcats.
Will Spoelstra start Haslem to begin Game 2?
“It’s too early to say,” Spoelstra said.
“I’m getting better as the playoffs go on, so that’s a good sign for me, and I’m just trying to continue that as we get here,” Wade said. “There aren’t many guys playing at this point. There aren’t many teams that are playing, so for us to be as healthy as we can be coming into this time is key, so for me to play the way I did in the last game really shows a lot, so I just want to continue that as we go through the next round.”
Before Sunday’s Game 1, Pacers guard Lance Stephenson said he wanted Wade’s chronic knee soreness to return during the series. Wade didn’t want to address Stephenson’s comments before the game.
“The talk should be about basketball,” Wade said. “I mean, the game. I don’t do the talking back and forth through the media, so I have no response.”
Wade missed 28 games during the regular season to saved himself physically for the playoffs. He scored 28 points in Game 5 against the Brooklyn Nets, and was productive on Sunday. He finished with a game-high 27 points, going 12 of 18 from the field.
“I’ve been in every game so far it hasn’t been an issue,” Wade said of his knees. “It’s not a concern of mine. That’s not what I’m focusing on. I’m not coming out here worrying about what my body is doing. My body is fine.
“I’m just coming out here and worrying about the game plan and doing what I need to do—limiting the guy I need to guard individually, and trying to play as good a team ball as possible.”
Pacers reserve Evan Turner missed the game with strep throat. Indiana coach Frank Vogel wasn’t sure if Turner would be back for Game 2 on Tuesday. Vogel inserted former Heat forward Rasual Butler into the rotation in place of Turner. Butler played nine minutes and went 0 of 1 from the field.