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Monday, May 19, 2014
Bigger role for Udonis Haslem in Game 2?

By Michael Wallace


INDIANAPOLIS -- The very last thing the Miami Heat wanted to watch after entering the visitors’ locker room at Bankers Life Fieldhouse was the first thing coach Erik Spoelstra felt they needed to view.

Themselves. Or, at least a version of themselves in Game 1 they hardly recognized.

A film session that dissected defensive breakdowns during the Heat’s 11-point loss Sunday to the Indiana Pacers set the tone for an afternoon of adjustments Monday as the teams prepared for Game 2 on Tuesday.

Spoelstra wished he were fortunate enough to be able to point to one area needing improvement.

Instead …

“It’s a little bit of everything,” Spoelstra said Monday. “To be frank about it, there was lack of detail, a lack of focus, a lack of discipline, a lack of effort. Put that all into a bowl and you get a bad result. It was pretty much across the board, where we weren’t sharp. And we understand that has to change.”

Change, in fact, was one of the operative words that kept coming up as the Heat worked to tweak their approach in hopes of evening the best-of-7 series Tuesday before it shifts to Miami for two games.

The Heat know they can’t afford another night like Game 1, when the Pacers had an uncharacteristically great offensive performance while shooting 51.5 percent from the field overall, going 8-of-19 from 3-point range, attempting 37 free throws and having six players score in double figures.

The main change, as far as the Heat’s key players are concerned, starts with a return to a bigger lineup they feel works best in countering the Pacers’ interior size. Spoelstra gave no indication Monday a change was imminent with his starting unit, but LeBron James and Chris Bosh hope to see Miami open with defensive-minded Udonis Haslem at power forward to get Miami into more of a comfort zone.

The Heat started Game 1 with Shane Battier, primarily a floor-spacing perimeter shooter, as part of a smaller lineup that did little to disrupt Indiana’s rhythm on either end of the court. Battier defended Paul George, which forced James to take on the assignment of guarding rugged forward David West.
Haslem
Udonis Haslem might be used more often to defend Roy Hibbert and David West.

James admitted Monday the assignment wore him down and that the team spent time during practice working on adjustments to its initial approach in Game 1. The Heat gave up 30 points in the first quarter, trailed by 10 at halftime and were down by as many as 19 in the third with a brand of defense that failed to slow the Pacers in any aspect of their game.

“It’s a huge adjustment, starting the game off that way,” James said of defending West on one end and then running the Heat’s offense at the other. “I could do it in spots at times. It was definitely a challenge for me. And I don’t think, personally, I was in the right spots in the right times. It was just a couple of breakdowns on my part. Guarding a [power forward] is definitely a challenge for me for long periods of time. I’m used to switching off more and more.”

The Heat addressed the shoddy execution of their pick-and-roll defense that was shredded by Indiana’s guards and often left James out of position in the post while defending West. Help defense was either late or never arrived as West and Roy Hibbert combined for 38 points, 16 rebounds and six assists.

Haslem, who has had more success than any Heat post player at defending West and Hibbert, started the second half on Sunday’s game but never had an impact. But James said the Heat prefer their matchups against Indiana with Haslem on the court to provide a defensive presence from the start.

“We just have to get back to doing what we do, doing what’s natural for us and just get the job done,” Bosh said of re-establishing themselves against the Pacers entering Tuesday’s game. “Whether it’s [Haslem], me, Shane or whoever, playing our more classic style of matching up and just really going at that [Indiana] lineup is more suited for us.”

Bosh also looks to regroup from one his least productive game of the postseason. He missed eight of his 12 shots, including all five from 3-point range, and grabbed just two rebounds in nearly 32 minutes. Defensively, he never bothered Hibbert or West and didn’t offer much of a presence in the paint.

Collecting double-digit rebounds has long been a challenge for Bosh since he arrived in Miami four years ago and gradually adjusted his game to become an effective 3-point shooter. Bosh said Monday that after four seasons with the Heat, he’s still trying to sort through his limitations on the boards.

“In the position I’m in, I’ve got a guy who is bigger than me,” Bosh said of trying to slow Hibbert. “My concentration is to keep him off the boards. I’m not really crashing offensive rebounds because I’m spaced out, and defensive rebounds are pretty tough to get. I’m not as athletic as I used to be, so that’s just something I have to deal with. I’m still learning the position game, and learning how to rebound out of that. It’s been a two-year process and it’s going to take more time.”

Offensively, Bosh is confident his jumper will come around and force Hibbert out of his comfort zone. Bosh’s effectiveness from beyond the arc has developed into a strength for the Heat. He leads the team with 17 made 3-pointers this postseason. But Bosh has struggled against the Pacers, and has averaged just 12.1 points and 4.1 rebounds against Indiana over the last two seasons, including the playoffs.

Getting Bosh going on both ends of the court is a primary key for Miami in this series.

“If I can make a couple of shots, maybe Hibbert thinks twice a little bit,” Bosh said. “But it’s going to take time. We have another crack at it. I’m a big believer in balance. Like I always say, if I have a bad shooting game, it just means that another game, I’m going to feel like I can’t miss. And it’ll happen.”

A quick turnaround gives the Heat an opportunity to distance themselves from their worst performance of the playoffs after winning eight of their first nine games this postseason.

“We don’t really care about what’s happened in the past,” Spoelstra said. “We understand the urgency of the response for [Tuesday] night. It’s two contrasting styles. It’s who can get to whose game more consistently. They got to their game. They were able to mitigate our speed and activity. We weren’t able to get to their size and into their paint, their wheelhouse and comfort level. And that has to change.”