If I told you that the Miami Heat came from behind to steal Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Finals series with the Chicago Bulls, who would you pick as the hero? Almost certainly it would be LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, right? Maybe a few of you would have picked Chris Bosh, just to try and be different.
How’s this for different? After playing just seven total minutes in the entire playoffs heading into that game, Udonis Haslem, coming off of injury, played 23 minutes, scoring 13 points and grabbing five rebounds to spark the Heat. Yes, that same Haslem that The Big Three took minor salary cuts for to keep in Miami.
Haslem injured his foot back in November and said he would have cut that leg off just to play nine minutes in Game 2. Instead, he caught fire and Erik Spoelstra rode the hot hand. Now Haslem and the Heat return home to Miami, where they’ll try to keep the pressure on in Game 3 on Sunday. (Editor’s note: It’s ridiculous these teams get three days off before playing another game)
Udonis Haslem joined 790 The Ticket in Miami with The Dan LeBetard Show with Stugotz to discuss whether he knew he had that type of game in him, getting out on the fast break, his physical health a day later, what the game meant for him, what he did to have that type of success, how he was able to play that many minutes and whether he expects to play more now during the rest of the series.
Did he think he had that type of game in him for Game 2?:
“To be honest, not right away. My main focus coming into the game was just to give us some toughness down there on the boards. That’s really what I focused on. I didn’t expect to come in and have that much of an impact so early.”
On his dunks, particularly to finish off a fastbreak:
“I just was getting out on the break and running the break. We’ve evolved into kind of a fastbreak team and I think that’s where we’re at our best. I was just trying to get up and down with the guys.”
How did he feel one day later, physically?:
“I feel pretty good. My foot’s feeling pretty good. I’ve just got to tip my hat to the training staff. … So far, everything’s going the way we planned it.”
How did he feel immediately after putting up that kind of game?:
“I felt good; I was tired and ran out of gas toward the end, but it was a good kind of tired. We won the game and that’s the most important thing. … I had to shoot because I was open, but [the jumper] was broken. … I didn’t have anything, no legs, no arms. Everything was shot.”
Was that game the first good moment he’s felt all season?:
“It was the first good moment I’ve felt in a while. … I was thankful. The man upstairs showed me favor and it was a blessing to be out there with the guys and to contribute to actually win the game. … Not the best feeling since winning the championship, but the best feeling I’ve had in a long, long time.”
What was he specifically doing to have so much success?:
“I was just trying to put a body on guys. If I couldn’t get [the rebound] I was trying to make sure my man didn’t get it. I had a couple that I coulda went up and got, but like I said, just ran out of gas a little bit. So I just made sure my man couldn’t get it.”
Given all that he has gone through, was it moving to be such a big part of that game?:
“It was very emotional, but I think, one, wishing my mom could be a part of watching that comeback and just everything. It’s been tough not having her voice. … Two, it was a little emotional and I was kind of moved by Micky (Arison) coming and hugging me. … He was happy for me to be able to come back.”
On playing 23 minutes after being so limited up to that point:
“We had a conversation the day before the game and I told Coach Spo that I’d give my leg just to get nine minutes. I didn’t think I would get 23 minutes, but we were playing well. There was a point at the free throw line where he looked at me and I looked at him and I told him, ‘I’m fine.’ He kind of grunted a little bit and was like, ‘You sure?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, Coach, I’m fine. I caught my second wind.’ … That was in the second quarter. … I think he was only planning on giving me about three minutes at a time in the second quarter and I went five or six.”
Does he think he earned himself more minutes in this series?:
“I’m prepared to try to give as much minutes as I can. We still have a rotation that’s been working for us, now I’m just another piece to the puzzle.”
Listen to Udonis Haslem on 790 The Ticket in Miami here (Interview begins at 9:30)