Monday, May 27, 2013
Haslem speaks, Heat's role players rise up
By Michael Wallace
INDIANAPOLIS -- Because there is no shortage of strong voices in the Miami Heat's locker room with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in leadership roles, Udonis Haslem picks his spots when he wants to be heard.
He had something to say Sunday.
With home-court advantage being stolen away by the Indiana Pacers in Game 2, and much of James' supporting cast struggling, Haslem knew it was time to break his relative silence.
“Obviously, we've got so many guys who have won and have been successful throughout their careers at this level, so on different nights different guys speak up,” said Haslem, the only player other than Wade who has been with the Heat the past 10 years. “This time, it was me. Just coming into this game, I wanted to make sure that we came in here with a certain attitude. Something had to change.”
Haslem wouldn't reveal all the details of his message to the team before Game 3 on Sunday. But the theme was Miami needed to play like it was an elimination game and its collective Big 3 experiment -- and legacy -- were at stake.
Apparently, the Heat psyched themselves into believing it. Storming to a 70-point first half, the Heat built a double-digit lead and cruised to a 114-96 rout to hand the Pacers their first home loss of the playoffs. In the process, the Heat reclaimed home-court advantage and take a 2-1 series lead into Game 4 on Tuesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Heat shot 54.5 percent from the field, including 42.9 from 3-point range and had 21 assists with five turnovers.
After dominating the offense in the first two games of the series, James benefited from plenty of support with all five Heat starters scoring in double figures. Much of the production during the highest scoring first half in Heat playoff history came from some unlikely sources.
It started with Haslem, who made six of his first seven shots and scored 13 of his 17 points in the first half. Before Sunday, he made just one shot in the previous two games.
The supporting cast boost continued with guard Mario Chalmers, who scored seven of his 14 points during a 9-1 run in the third quarter to extend the Heat's lead to 15 after Indiana rallied to within 78-70 midway through the period.
Miami got much of the same from Chris “Birdman” Andersen, who had nine points, nine rebounds and two blocks. He also extended his perfect shooting streak by making 16 consecutive shots over the past four games.
The Heat's reserves were in such a good rhythm in Game 3 that even Ray Allen and Shane Battier got back to knocking down 3-pointers. Allen had been scoreless in Indiana this season and Battier was shooting 23.1 percent from 3-point range during the playoffs before Sunday.
It was all a collective dose of much-needed relief for Miami's marquee players. James had 22 points, four rebounds and three assists, Wade added 18 points and eight assists and Bosh contributed 15 points and three rebounds.
The balanced effort completely derailed the Pacers' plan coming in to force James, Wade and Bosh do most of the heavy lifting and while shutting down Miami's role players.
James credited Haslem for setting the tone on a night when the Heat showed the form they played with during their 27-game winning streak that ran through February and March.
“He's the heartbeat of our team, first of all,” James said of Haslem before singling out other teammates. “There's no one on our roster that plays that we don't have the utmost confidence in. For him to come through and do what he was able to do offensively from the start -- with [Chalmers] stepping up in the third, also Shane and Ray contributing, [Andersen] giving us his usual. We needed everyone's effort and it allowed us to get a big win on the road.”
Indiana coach Frank Vogel pointed to Haslem's hot start as one of the key reasons the game got away early.
“Is he going to shoot 8-for-9 every night? We'll see,” Vogel said. “If he does, it's probably going to be a long series for us. We have to make some adjustments, for sure.”
But one of the adjustments for the Heat came a few hours before Game 3 started. That's when Haslem stepped to the front and talked about a needed attitude adjustment. The room fell silent as the usually reserved co-captain spoke.
“He doesn't talk too much,” Wade said. “When (Haslem) talks, he's not just talking to hear his voice. We understand that this guy is all heart. This is one of the total team guys. When he steps up and says something, everyone listens.”
Haslem then made sure his game spoke volumes. He regained his touch on the baseline jumpers that had been a staple of the Heat's offense dating way back to their run to the title in 2006 while playing alongside Shaquille O'Neal.
This, in part, was the Heat's response to the Pacers' 97-93 victory in Miami in Game 2. After that game Friday, Indiana star Paul George referred to the Heat having a Big 3 and the Pacers having a more balanced Big 5. The Heat's role players were motivated to deliver a statement game.
“It was very important for us to come in here, take them out of it and play our game,” Chalmers said. “We talked about coming in here and getting everybody involved. We knew what we had to do. When we come in here and everyone shares the ball, we're an impossible team to beat.”
What started as a talk translated into a resounding win that was arguably the Heat's best performance of the playoffs.
“We needed to play like our basketball lives are on the line,” Haslem said. “That's the type of scenario we tried to create for ourselves. LeBron has been having a great series, has been carrying us. But it takes all of us to get this done.”