The Miami Heat tied their series vs. the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night, and afterward, all eyes were on Udonis Haslem, the Heat co-captain that had the Heat looking better than ever in Game 2.
He missed 69 games this season, and even when he returned in recent games, he looked lost. Overwhelmed and out of shape. And that left the Miami Heat out of luck in Game 1. Wednesday night, though, Haslem was back to his old self, and a 33-45 rebounding disadvantage became a 45-41 advantage for the Heat, who only surrendered three offensive rebounds with Haslem on the floor Wednesday. Is it coincidence that the Heat won? Haslem thinks not.
Afterward, he told reporters, "I was seeing guys running to the basket without bodies being put on them. That's the first thing is we have to hit guys when shots go up. My main focus tonight was not scoring, it was defending and rebounding. When a shot went up, I was just trying to put a body on guys. If I couldn't get it, make sure those guys couldn't get it." And whatever he was doing, it worked.
As he continued, "We understand it's going to be a physical game. On the boards, every time a shot goes up, those guys are crashing. Defensively, they are challenging every shot that we have at the basket. And we use the term ground and pound. We have to continue to fight, fight, fight. Those guys aren't going to give up."
In other words, if the Bulls set the tone for the series in Game 1, then Game 2 was Miami's way of matching it. If anything, Game 1 was a lesson for the Heat and guys like Haslem. A clear message that if the Heat don't scrap on the glass, this series won't be close. And Haslem got the message.
"No rebounds, no rings," he said. "We can't win this series without controlling the boards."
In other words, the Miami Heat can't win this series without Udonis Haslem.