Bulls now very aware of Haslem
The "Incredible Unknown" will never rank among basketball's greatest nicknames, particularly because Udonis Haslem needed just one game to shed that tag.
Yet that's how Miami coach Eric Spoelstra described the Heat's backup power forward going into Game 2.
Haslem sat out the final 69 regular-season games with a Lisfranc fracture in his left foot that required surgery.
Then he played a grand total of seven playoff minutes -- all of them in junk time -- prior to the Heat's 85-75 victory Wednesday night.
But when Miami needed his rebounding and his presence, Haslem delivered 13 points and 5 rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench in Game 2.
"He's one of those guys that you really can't measure him statistically," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. "He brings a lot of toughness to their team."
"He's an absolute championship warrior," Spoelstra said. "Really, what he did tonight, it's remarkable. He hasn't really been in a game -- and now I question myself for not trying him earlier.
"But there was an incredible unknown. We hadn't seen him in a game. Our practices at this point aren't quite as long as they were in midseason."
When Spoelstra spoke to Haslem prior to Monday's practice -- barely 12 hours after the Bulls' overpowering Game 1 win -- he saw a gleam that suggested the team's captain was ready to go.
Haslem wound up with his second-highest point total of the season and his highest minutes load since Nov. 19.
"A lot of people told him he won't be able to come back this season; he won't be able to make an impact, he should just wait it out," said LeBron James, who led everyone with 29 points and 10 rebounds. "But his mentality is a lot different than a lot of people's."
The 6-foot-8, 235-pound Haslem made an immediate impact upon entering at the 4:37 mark of the first quarter.
The Bulls owned a 7-0 advantage on the offensive boards without Haslem on the floor -- a carryover from Game 1.
Haslem grabbed an offensive rebound on his first Game 2 possession and helped to keep the Bulls off the offensive boards for more than 13 minutes.
It wasn't an accident Joakim Noah's tip-in late in the second quarter came shortly after Haslem went to the bench.
While he provided the basics in the first half, he brought the spectacular in the third quarter.
Haslem fueled the Heat's late third-quarter spree that turned a 1-point edge into an 11-point bulge.
He cut down the lane for a dunk that became a 3-point play.
After James and Wade raced out for transition layups, Haslem got ahead of the pack and threw down an improbable one-handed dunk over Derrick Rose.
Haslem wrapped up his run with a pair of 19-foot jumpers -- both of which ended with him pointing to his buddies on the bench at the far end of the floor.
"It's been a long road," Haslem said. "My teammates have been patient with me, my coaching staff, my family. There's a lot of people that had to do with the success of tonight."