Updated: June 4, 2005, 1:11 PM ET

Supporting cast brings the Heat

Alonzo Mourning (left) and Udonis Haslem (with ball) were just two of the Miami supporting players who made major contributions Thursday.

MIAMI – If you offered the Detroit Pistons a combination of an injured Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, they would gladly take it while donning Rasheed Wallace's Cheshire cat-like grin. The problem was the Pistons didn't know that the "guys that don't get a lot of credit" were going to show up.

It was bad enough for the Heat that O'Neal has been strongly hampered by a right thigh contusion. Wade also suffered a rib muscle strain on a crossover dribble during Game 5. But with thoughts of a first-ever franchise berth to the NBA Finals in mind, the guys that don't get a lot of credit on the Heat roster saved the day. Now, Miami is a win away from becoming East champions.

"I'm happy for those guys that don't get a lot of credit," said Wade, who scored half of his 30-point Eastern Conference finals average entering Game 5 on Thursday night. "Other teammates normally get a lot of credit. To have them get the win convincingly the way they did said a lot."

The guys that don't get a lot of credit include Damon Jones, Udonis Haslem, Rasual Butler and Alonzo Mourning.

Jones scored 15 points and had six assists on one turnover. Haslem tied a postseason career-high 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds.

Butler scored a postseason career-high 12 points off the bench. And despite getting dunked on by Pistons center Ben Wallace and getting the ball stolen while showboating, the veteran Mourning added five points on 2-of-3 shooting, five rebounds and four blocks.

"You really don't want to see anyone leave the court because of an injury," Jones said of Wade. "Being he's one of our key parts to what we do here, it was a sight for sore eyes. He's been able to step up for us whenever we need him and he gave us positive energy."

At first, the guys that don't get a lot of credit didn't respond like they deserved credit. With the Heat up 67-47 with 5:08 left in the third quarter, Wade went to the lockeroom for medical treatment. With Wade out, Detroit trimmed its deficit to 73-60 by the end of the third.

Wade returned to the game at the start of the fourth quarter. But with Miami up 78-62 with 9:26 left in the game, an ailing Wade went back to the bench for good and Detroit got no closer than 12 as the guys that don't get a lot of credit stepped up.

"I had confidence that my team could get the victory, and they did," Wade said.

So just where did the guys get their confidence? Look no further than games when O'Neal has been out.

Miami was 6-3 during the regular season when O'Neal was out to injury. The Heat was also 2-0 in playoffs games O'Neal has missed. So whether its Wade or O'Neal, the guys that don't get a lot of credit know what is needed when a star has fallen.

"Dwyane, we don't like playing without him," Miami coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We don't like playing without Shaq. But our guys have been through enough of those times. Our guys are very confident in their abilities. And I think they are also highly motivated at those times."

Motivation for the guys that don't get a lot of credit will be at its highest point the rest of this series. With just one day off between Game 6 and a potential Game 7, don't expect O'Neal's injured thigh to get any better. And while Wade is confident he will be back for Game 6, he did voice a hint of uncertainty after the game and its uncertain how strong he will be even if he is back.

So if the Heat wants to make it to the NBA Finals, the guys that don't get a lot of credit have to come through again.

"This is the first time as a team, with Shaq getting back healthy and guys coming out in the first time in a couple of games that we came out and everybody was a big, big part of it," Wade said. "You know, it was great. This is the right time to do it. We need to do it again in Game 6.

"We don't need to rely on one, two or three people. Everybody's got to come and do it. This team has been great with that."

Talk back to the Daily Dime gang

Dimes Past: May 24 | 25 | 26 | 29 | 30 | 31 | June 1 | 2

Pic Of The Night
Ouch. The Heat overcame Dwyane Wade's injury for a night, but they don't want to find out if they can do it again against a desperate Detroit team.

Pic Of The Night II
OK, so they weren't distracted. But dejected? It sure looks like it, as Pistons Tayshaun Prince, Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton reflect at the end of their deflating Game 5 loss to Miami.

Disappearing Knack
Me? You called a foul on me?

An underrated factor in Detroit's Game 5 defeat was the absence of Rasheed Wallace.

What's that? You say he played?

Other than his third-quarter technical foul, it would have been hard to prove. Wallace scored just two points while committing four turnovers, with his biggest "contribution" being an offensive foul that knocked down an already-injured Dwyane Wade. He made little impact on defense as well, as Udonis Haslem repeatedly got clear for jumpers or easy baskets inside.

It's no accident that Wallace's two best games – 20 point efforts in Games 1 and 4 – were the two that Detroit won. When he's active and engaged, Detroit is extremely difficult to beat.

Unfortunately, Wallace has a maddening talent to disappear faster than Mike Tyson's money. The Pistons need the real 'Sheed to show up on Saturday if their title reign is to continue.

John Hollinger

Extreme Behavior

Thursday's Best
Udonis Haslem, Miami: On the NBA Fastbreak set, host Matt Winer loves to precede any Haslem highlight by asking "Who-donis?" Which sets up one of the analysts next to him to come back with a quick "Udonis." The better question on this night: Who's the unheralded Heat frontcourt man who outplayed both of Detroit's famed Wallace brothers? Yup: Udonis indeed. Haslem contributed a handy 14 points and 13 boards and missed just two shots from the field to spark the Heat's crucial Game 5 triumph.

Thursday's Worst
Piston intensity: There's finally something else to talk about besides Larry Brown-related distractions.

It's that other popular subject in Motown: Detroit's season-long, post-championship intensity issues.

Pistons reserve forward Darvin Ham told ESPN.com back in March that his team has been guilty of playing "light-switch basketball" all year, and you have to wonder anew if the Pistons think they can simply turn it on from 3-2 down and complete the tall-order task of winning the next two games in these East finals.

Another light-switch team – Shaquille O'Neal's Lakers – did it to Sacramento in the 2002 West finals, but it's not an approach you'd recommend.

And if the Pistons don't rally to win Game 6 at home and then a Game 7 on Miami's floor, they'll have to be honest with themselves and concede that their intensity hasn't consistently been there in this series. They haven't taken sufficient advantage of Shaq's physical limitations, and Detroit sure didn't seem to draw much inspiration from Dwyane Wade's injury exit just over halfway through Game 5.

Play of the Day
Dwyane Wade, Miami: D-Wade didn't get hurt on the charge he took from 'Sheed. It happened moments before, when Wade crossed over Rip Hamilton to sharply free himself for a jumper that pushed Miami's lead to 67-47 in the third quarter. "I took the charge because I couldn't move," Wade said. "I thought it was a good way to go out." Of course, memories of the exit won't be so fond if the Heat can't get Wade back soon ... or find a way to win one more game in this series without him.

Mr. Outspoken "Oh, it sucks."

Miami's Wade, when asked how "frustrating" it is to suffer an injury at this stage of the season.

Marc Stein


Suppose Dwyane Wade's rib injury prevents him from playing in Game 6 on Saturday. Here's the question: Should Stan Van Gundy sit Shaquille O'Neal, too?

Think about it. Playing in a road game in a hostile Palace against a team on the brink of elimination, Miami's odds would be considerably south of 50-50 minus Wade.

So why not let Shaq get two extra days of rest and come back to South Beach ready to rumble in Game 7?

It's clear that he's still not at full strength, as he's worn down in the second half of every game. Thus, having him expend 30 minutes in a losing effort in Game 6 would only wear him down further.

I don't expect the Heat to really do this – the media scrutiny of this strategy would become such a huge distraction that it wouldn't be worth it. But if I'm Stan Van Gundy, it's a very tempting thought.

John Hollinger


Dave (Jackson, MI): Chad, Larry Brown emphatically denied your report that a Cleveland deal was in place. Reading your report and hearing LB's statements, something doesn't add up.

Chad Ford: He was emphatic. But he didn't deny anything.

Listen to his statements again. A denial is to say, "I'm not taking the Cavs job. Period." What he said was that he loved coaching. That he didn't like anonymous sources. That he was more worried about his health than Plan B. Those aren't denials.

As I said in my initial report, I do think there's a chance that Larry changes his mind. There are medical issues to address. He's going to get hammered if he turns around and takes the job. He doesn't even want to live in Cleveland, which won't go over well.

But I still stand by my story that he told two credible league sources that he had decided to take the Cavs offer. Whether he follows through on it is anyone's guess.

Full chat transcript

Matching Up
Brian (Englewood, NJ): Who do you think the Spurs match up better with in the Finals? I mean, who do you think they would have an easier time with?

John Hollinger: I think they would rather face Miami.

They could put Bowen on Wade, and have 18 fouls with Nazr/Rasho/Massenburg to use against Shaq.

Detroit matches up better.

The Wallaces can guard Duncan, Prince can guard Manu, they can hide Rip on Bowen, and Billups vs. Parker is a bad matchup for San Antonio.

Full chat transcript

Big Plus Rob

As San Antonio moves into the NBA Finals, here's some info to stick in your back pocket.

There's a simple reason 34-year-old Spurs reserve Robert Horry consistently plays more minutes than starting center Nazr Mohammad (and moves Tim Duncan to the center position), and it's not his knack for dramatic 3-pointers.

Rather, it's that the Spurs are a better team with Horry on the floor.

Want proof? Check out the Plus/Minus numbers, as well as the top five-man units, for the Spurs. After Manu Ginobili, Horry is the player whose Plus/Minus rating is best, meaning that the Spurs outscore opponents by a wide margin when Horry is playing. And the Spurs' best five-man unit in the playoffs has been Parker-Ginobili-Bowen-Horry-Duncan.

To see the full info, click here.

Leaps And Bounds

The Suns' Amare Stoudemire didn't advance to the NBA Finals, but he did advance on a couple of other important measures, according to SportsNation.

After Amare's amazing 37-ppg series against Tim Duncan and the Spurs, we asked the fans of SportsNation to look into their crystal ball and tell us where Stoudemire was going from here.

When we asked who would make the best foundation for a team, Amare outpaced Dwyane Wade by percentage points.

And when we asked who would win a title first, Stoudemire leapfrogged LeBron James, who would have won this poll easily a year ago.

Who would you want to build a team around?
52.4% LeBron James
25.0% Amare Stoudemire
22.5% Dwyane Wade

Who will win an NBA title first?
79.8% Amare Stoudemire
20.2% LeBron James

SportsNation playoff index
John Hollinger on Amare Stoudemire



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