Haslem’s Veteran Resolve
It has been a long road back to this moment for Udonis Haslem. He played in only 13 games last season and had not returned to form in 2011-12 leading up to the last round against Indiana.
Then, the old Haslem seemingly reappeared versus the Pacers with 14 points in a must win Game 4. With Chris Bosh sidelined, the veteran has had little choice but to maintain his supplementary effort, putting in a bench high 13 points Wednesday to keep Miami afloat long enough to grab the overtime win against Boston.
“(Haslem) gave us a warrior game,” said Spoelstra. “He seems to thrive one way or another. These games, he rises to the occasion.”
The big moment certainly found Haslem. After the Heat rallied from a franchise playoff record 15-point deficit earlier, he hit a key jumper and the final go ahead dunk in the extra period to close out the resilient Celtics.
Despite his key contribution, the Miami man who has turned down millions throughout his career to remain in the only city he has ever known was unflappable. Haslem was exhibiting a quality that has also always stayed with him: humility.
“You’re not thinking about anything, its just instincts,” says Haslem. “I wasn’t aware of time, score, or anything like that. When the ball comes to you, you have a split second to follow your instincts and get it up. I was fortunate enough to make it.”
Rondo Races Towards Record Books
While Haslem’s showing went under the radar, there was no looking past what Boston’s Rajon Rondo did in a losing effort. The point guard turned in a performance for the ages, becoming the first player in playoff history to notch a stat line of 44 points, ten assists, and eight rebounds.
After Game 1 where he struggled to get in the lane and did not attempt one free throw, Rondo made three consecutive trips to the line at the end of the first quarter and finished 10-12 from the charity stripe. What might have been the most impressive element of his evening was that he never left the court, playing all 53 minutes of regulation and overtime.
No matter if Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, or someone else was on Rondo, there was truly no let up.
“He shot the ball amazing tonight,” said Wade. “It didn’t seem like he missed. He was just feeling it tonight. There was nothing you could do about it. He was out there every minute of the game and he made a big impact.”
Rondo had an equal distribution of points, 22 in the first half and 22 in the second half plus OT. Despite playing wire to wire, he was his best late, hitting two desperation threes that kept the Celtics alive in the final seconds.
Head coach Doc Rivers lamented that Rondo’s individual game was not rewarded with victory. Rondo himself shrugged off what he had just done due to the fact that a loss was still attached to the numbers.
Even so, it will not be a showing not many forget anytime soon.
“Rondo’s unbelievable,” said Shane Battier. “One of the best games I’ve ever seen in person. We’re trying to give him different looks. You try to keep him off guard with different coverages. It didn’t work very well tonight.”
Shipping Up To Boston
As bleak as things look for Boston down 2-0, they get the series on home turf for the first time starting with Game 3 Friday. Knowing how different things are for this team in the Garden should give the Celtics some optimism.
During the regular season, they finished with a losing record on the road but were 24-9 in their friendly confines. They have also only lost one game in Boston this postseason.
Rivers said they will examine the flaws from this game, then use the return home as a momentum boost.
“You don’t throw it away,” said Rivers on Game 2. “You hold onto it for 24 hours and then you move on. Listen, it’s corny, but they’ve won two games at home, but now we go to a place we are very comfortable in. Then we have to win two games at home.”
While in the driver’s seat, the Heat know that all they have done so far in this series is protect home court. Still focused on a championship mission that requires six more wins, there was no patting each other on the back after Wednesday’s triumph.
With all that is at stake and the respect they have for Boston, a letup is not expected from Miami come Friday.
“We weren’t celebrating,” said Wade on the feeling postgame. “We won two games at home. That’s a very good team over that we know is going to give us everything come the next four games when they get two at home in Boston.”