Talk about the ultimate endorsement.
Going into the Eastern Conference finals, Lebron James and Dwyane Wade have made it known that seldom-used forward Udonis Haslem will be inserted into the starting lineup.
Is a Udonis Haslem starting against Indy? Erik Spoelstra: “We’ll see.” Haslem: “Ask coach.” LeBron: “Yep.”
— Jason Lieser (@PBPjasonlieser) May 16, 2014
LeBron and Wade say they expect Haslem to be back in starting lineup. Spoelstra indicates all options open – even Oden in rotation.
— Michael Wallace (@WallaceNBA_ESPN) May 16, 2014
Far from a traditionalist, Erik Spoelstra isn’t afraid to tweak his starting lineup depending on the opponent. Throughout the season, Shane Battier, Greg Oden, and Udonis Haslem saw spot minutes, being used in opportunities that suited them most instead of the typical nightly rotation. With the Indiana Pacers the next target, Haslem’s size and strength will help combat that of David West and Roy Hibbert.
Looking at the number, Haslem had a weird effect on the Pacers.
Per NBA Stats, the Pacers posted a net rating of -26.0 in the 53 minutes Haslem played versus the club. They’re offensive rebound percentage dropped from almost ten percent, from 23.3% to 14.6%, and the pace was a sluggish 85.27 in the given time frame.
Haslem’s presence also hindered Roy Hibbert. In the 53 minutes Haslem played, Roy Hibbert shot 1-of-10 from the floor. Hibbert’s line field goal came on a hook shot when being guarded by Lebron James in the post.
Numbers don’t tell the entire story as they lack context, but the Miami Heat are banking on Udonish Haslem to negate Roy Hibbert’s impact in this series. While Hibbert has been struggling from the floor, scoring ten or less points in eight of the 13 playoff games played, he’s been known to show up against the Miami Heat, causing troubles and impacting the way the Heat defend as Hibbert scoring opens the floor up for his teammates to operate on the perimeter.
If Haslem can keep him at bay, the Heat’s chances of advancing to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals will increase considerably.