Udonis Haslem’s contributions show up not on the stat sheet, but in the win column.
The former Gator has played a small but important role in helping the Miami Heat take a 3-1 series lead over the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Game 5 is tonight at 8:30 ET on ESPN.
Haslem’s points and minutes averaged per game in 2014 are the lowest of his 11-year career, both in the regular season and postseason.
This year and his rookie season are the only times Haslem has averaged fewer than five points in the postseason, and he played just three minutes in the five-game series with Brooklyn earlier this month.
But when the Indiana matchup arrived, Haslem knew his playing time would increase because of Pacers center Roy Hibbert.
“I got to work him,” Haslem told the Miami Herald on May 16. “I got to make everything tough. I can’t give him anything easy. I’ve got to be ahead of every play. I got to be mentally and physically on top of it and it’s got to be a grind.”
Haslem started against Indiana on April 11 and held Hibbert to five points in Miami’s 98-86 win. He also played 31 minutes, scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
After a reserve role in the Game 1 loss last week, Haslem was inserted into the starting lineup. He has averaged 18 minutes in the past three games (all Miami wins) and scored a total of 16 points.
Haslem came off the bench in Game 4 to fill the role of injured Heat forward Chris “Birdman” Andersen (thigh bruise) but still helped contain Hibbert, who went scoreless in Monday’s 102-90 loss to Miami.
“We have high quality NBA professionals on our team that can sit all year, and when their number is called, they can come in and produce,” LeBron James told ESPN’s Doris Burke after the game. “UD came in and gave us great minutes off the bench at that second five spot with Bird being out. Everyone had to pick up their game with one of our biggest players gone.”