Haslem & Battier Step Up in Bosh's Absence
When the Miami Heat found out that Chris Bosh would not play on Saturday night because of an illness, they knew that it would be tough to match up with the physicality of the Jazz frontcourt of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.
Coach Erik Spoelstra elected to start the 12th-year veteran Shane Battier in Bosh’s place. Battier and Lebron switched off duties guarding Millsap while Haslem stuck with Jefferson. Even with a defensive presence like Bosh out of the lineup, the Heat wanted to make the Jazz work for every bucket.
“When we focus on something, our guys have been able to respond,” said Spoelstra. “We respected what the Utah Jazz can do in the frontcourt.”
Millsap and Jefferson have shot a combined 75/151 (49.6) from the field in Utah’s last six games. It didn’t come that easy this night against the defending World Champs. The two were held to a combined 5-for-17 shooting for 17 points.
“While Udonis and Shane are only six feet eight inches, what they have inside their chest makes up for any kind of lack of height,” said Spoelstra. “They are tough, physical and willing to do the dirty work plays that we need. Both of them did that tonight.”
“They did an unbelievable job,” Wade said about his teammates. “I think both of those guys are six feet eight on a good day going against bigger stronger guys and they did great. I had a lot of trust that they could do their job, and we would be there to help. They had a tough matchup, and they took it head on.”
Battier and Haslem also contributed on the offensive end as well, filling in for Bosh’s position in the stats sheet. Although they didn’t create offense like Bosh would, they just made the simple plays when the ball came to them and that’s what the Heat needed. Battier scored 15 points and made four of his eight attempts from beyond the arc. Haslem finished with six points and nine rebounds.
“We’ve just been trying to come out of the gate a little faster defensively,” said Haslem. “We’ve really tried to make a conscious effort to set the tone defensively in the first quarter.”
This effort has been working for the Heat lately as they’ve won four straight games now, all by double digits. Over those four games the Heat has limited their opponents to an average of 40% from the field.
“At the end of the day it is a no-excuse league,” said Spoelstra. “Nobody wants to hear about who’s not playing. We’re a no-excuse team. Regardless of what player is in or out, our guys have stepped up.”
The Heat will need multiple players to step up once again on Christmas Day against the Oklahoma City Thunder, especially if Bosh is out again. The Thunder are coming off a loss to the Timberwolves after winning 12 straight games.
The Heat will need to keep the same defensive intensity going against the defending Western Conference Champs if they want to extend their win streak. The 2012 Finals rematch is set for 5:30 PM on Tuesday night.