Before Game Four on Tuesday, Erick Spoelstra reminded the media not to expect too much from his now-backup power forward. Haslem played all of 13 games in the regular season when a foot injury knocked him out very early on. No one expected him to even return in time for the postseason, let alone contribute in such a major way.
Even after a 13-point effort that turned around Game Two, Haslem was only expected to bring a little more consistency and energy on defense and on the defensive glass. Really, just the things he has been doing his entire career.
“We are not expecting the spectacular,” Spoelstra said before Game Four. “To be frank, we were not expecting that in Game 2. We don’t look at UD from a scoring standpoint. Anything we get from him will be a bonus.”
Haslem has provided much more than a bonus for Miami. He has been critical to neutralizing the Bulls on the offensive glass.
In the last three games, Haslem has averaged 7.7 points per game and 6.0 rebounds per game. He was not able to score as much in Game Four, but grabbed nine rebounds.
In Game One, the Bulls outrebounded the Heat 45-33 and 19-6 on the offensive glass. Since then Miami is just -6 on the glass. The Heat are not as dominating a rebounding team as the Bulls are, so to be that close on the glass is something of a victory. It certainly helps to have the suffocating defense Miami has displayed.
Haslem though has been key to that rebounding effort.
According to the NBA Stats Cube, Chicago’s rebounds per 48 minutes decreases from 46.7 while Haslem is on the bench to 33.9 when Haslem is on the court. That is approximately a 27 percent decrease with Haslem on the floor. Chicago, after posting a 53.9 percent rebound rate during the postseason, grab only 48.0 percent of total rebounds with Haslem on the floor.
Similarly, the Bulls are grabbing 18.9 offensive rebounds per 48 minutes with Haslem off the floor (undoubtedly a side product of that lopsided Game One), but just 8.5 offensive rebounds per 48 minutes with Haslem on the floor. That is a 55 percent decrease. Chicago’s offensive rebound rate drops from 38.3 percent to 22.7 percent when Haslem is on the floor.
This is a pretty significant dropoff.
Haslem’s impact, at least while he is on the floor, can be seen all over the place too. Miami has an offensive rating of 106.5 while Haslem is on the floor compared to 100.7 while he is off the floor. More significantly, the Bulls’ offensive rating is a lowly 90.3 while Haslem is on the floor and 102.0 when he is off.
You cannot attribute all of these numbers to Haslem alone. The Heat have taken this 3-1 series lead behind LeBron James’ stellar performance and a suffocating team defense. Miami is pushing all the right buttons and playing at what seems like a much higher intensity.
Haslem’s presence has been a bolster, enabling Miami to use the lineup it envisioned when the “Super Trio” took pay cuts to ensure the team could retain Haslem as a free agent. It is never a slam dunk to have a player return from injury after such a long layoff. The Magic have been regretting Jameer Nelson’s return for the 2009 Finals almost every day now.
Spoelstra’s gamble to bring Haslem back is paying off huge dividends as Miami has top-seeded Chicago on the ropes in Game Five.
Photo via DayLife.com.