Former local college star energizes Heat in Game 3 win
By Brad Friedman
June 14 -- Udonis Haslem didn't score 42 points like Dwyane Wade did in Game 3. He didn't hit the eventual game-winning jump shot as Gary Payton did. Nor did he have millions of the world's eyes watching him like those that were focused on Shaquille O'Neal.
But if there was one player on Miami who was as much a part of the Heat's 98-86 Game 3 victory, it was Haslem.
In between spells on the bench in which he grimaced in pain from a strained left shoulder contusion, Haslem out-rebounded the entire Dallas Mavericks on the offensive boards eight to seven, and helped Miami post a 15-rebound advantage on the glass overall.
"I think unsung hero for the game is the right word for him," said Mavericks assistant coach Joe Prunty.
Prunty coached Haslem on the Spurs 2003 summer league team when the former Florida Gator was just looking to hook on with an NBA team after spending his first season of pro basketball in the French Pro A league. He indicated it was Haslem's dedication to getting his body slimmer that enabled him to get a contract with the Heat the following fall, and that Haslem showed a similar level of dedication in Game 3.
"Last night he goes and gets offensive rebounds," Prunty said. "He plays tough defense, and I'm sure he had a lot of the Miami's 16 second chance points. We've gone through the film. What it boils down to is there's a lot we need to improve and the one that stands out is offensive rebounds."
Not only did Haslem do a job on the glass, but the Heat power forward also helped Miami move out in front 94-93 with 1:03 left in the game on two free throws following his steal on a Jason Terry pass. Prior to those makes, Haslem missed his first four shots at the charity stripe.
The steal and free throws, according to Dallas forward Keith Van Horn, were part of what "completely turned around the game."
"Three or four plays completely turned it from a 10-point win to a two-point loss," Van Horn said. "Haslem makes big defensive plays. I guess with the shoulder bothering him, the way he knocked down those two free throws, you have to give the guy a lot of credit."
And it's understandable why Haslem failed to convert on his first four free throw attempts. After the contest, he told reporters he was having difficulty getting his arm over his head.
"When I raise up to shoot or follow through, it kind of feels a little weak and a little sore," he said.
So what's Haslem and the Heat training staff doing to get him ready for Thursday night?
"More steam and a couple Advil," Haslem said. "I refuse to take the shots, and all that other stuff. Right now just steam, Advil and ice. It's stiff -- I expect to be feeling it tomorrow. But right now it's The Finals. I think any player in my position would go out there and play."
Probably true, but not quite at the level Haslem did Tuesday night.
Keeping the Defense Honest
Much has been made about Shaquille O'Neal's lack of field goal attempts in this series, and much will be continued to be made of it until the Heat open up their perimeter attack more. O'Neal is averaging just over eight field goal attempts per game, and it's because Miami hasn't given Dallas a reason not to double O'Neal.
O'Neal has routinely kicked the ball out to his teammates, who've hesitated to fire or simply failed to make the Mavericks pay. As good as Wade is, he's not comfortable in the role of perimeter shooter. The erratic Antoine Walker missed all five of his three-pointers in Game 3. Gary Payton's converted just 2-of-9 field goals all series.
The Heat's most reliable threat on the outside has come in the form of point guard Jason Williams. When his teammate's shots weren't dropping in the second quarter, the point guard tallied seven points over his nine minutes of playing time to help Miami maintain control of the game. For the contest, Williams had 12 points, slightly above his 11.7 Finals scoring average.
"I just try to be aggressive every night," Williams said. "I try to loosen up those double-teams on D. Wade and Shaq. They're making it tough for him (Shaq) to even catch the ball, but when he gets the ball, I know that he's going to get double-teamed, and he's going to kick it out.
"I just have to be ready. It's been a point of emphasis all year long. He's such an unselfish player, he's going to make plays for his teammates."
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