It was a special night in Heat center Greg Oden’s career, considering the injuries he has overcome to return to the NBA.
A native of Indianapolis, Oden was out of the league for nearly four years before signing with the Heat.
“Just actually being able to play and get to start with my mom in the crowd, that’s something I definitely look forward to,” Oden said before Wednesday’s night game. “The fact that I do get to play here in front of my family and friends, that means something to me.”
Oden played his maximum amount of minutes this season (15) against the Trail Blazers, but coach Erik Spoelstra said he isn’t planning on pushing Oden beyond that threshold. Oden has played to begin the first and third quarters as a starter, but never in the second and fourth quarters.
Never miss a local story.
“I feel like we've got a plan and we're sticking to the plan,” Oden said.
Before the game, LeBron James said “to have a big guy who can control the paint, it’s a luxury.”
“He’s a big body, and he can keep his body between the other bigs we play against and the basket and that helps — that helps our defense and it helps our rebounding,” James said.
Dwyane Wade returned to the lineup on Wednesday after missing two games due to soreness in his Achilles tendon.
Wade said his latest injury occurred during the Heat’s loss to the Celtics last week. He scored 17 points on 17 shots against Boston.
“It just came up,” Wade said.
Wade has missed 19 games this season, but most of that time off has been to rest his knees for the playoffs. Last season, Wade began experiencing chronic knee problems after an injury against the New Orleans Hornets on March 29.
“It helped my Achilles in the sense of soreness,” Wade said. “I took a few days off and I’m ready to go.”
Pacers coach Frank Vogel said he wanted Roy Hibbert to be more involved offensively, and the Pacers’ big center responded in the first quarter.
Hibbert began the game 4 of 5 from the field for nine points despite being guarded by Oden. Hibbert gave the Pacers a 14-8 lead with 5:51 left in the first quarter with a reverse layup over Oden and Spoelstra called a timeout to substitute Oden out of the game.
Oden has been substituted out of games around the six-minute mark since being inserted into the starting lineup, and Spoelstra said that pattern would not change anytime soon. As for the match-up against Hibbert, Spoelstra said Oden wasn’t brought in “to be the Hibbert stopper.”
“He’s here to make a championship team better,” Spoelstra said. “That’s why we went after him so aggressively. He does some things because of his size that we haven’t had before. But that's not exclusive to the Indiana Pacers.”
Hibbert’s hot hand continued after Oden left the game. He made a jumper shortly after the first timeout.
Ray Allen did not travel with the Heat due to flu-like symptoms. With the playoffs quickly approaching, the Heat’s sharpshooter might not rejoin the team during the road trip to avoid an outbreak throughout the locker room. The Heat plays in Detroit and Milwaukee before returning home.
“He’s wiped out with the same bug that his entire family has, so we’re just hoping the whole Allen family feels better,” Spoelstra said.
Rashard Lewis took Allen’s place in the rotation and received his first action since March 6.