BIG THREE—Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James gather after victory. (Photo by AP)
by Cliff Brunt
INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—The Indiana Pacers didn’t see this version of Udonis Haslem coming. There was no reason to.
Haslem, a veteran forward who had scored in single digits in six of his previous seven playoff games, finished with 17 points on 8-for-9 shooting to help the Miami Heat beat the Pacers 114-96 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday night.
The Heat took a 2-1 lead in the series and regained homecourt advantage with Game 4 set for Tuesday night in Indianapolis.
Haslem went a quiet 1-for-7 from the floor in the first two games of the series, but he looked for his shot early and often in Game 3. His mid-range jumpers constantly left 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert out of position. Hibbert had been playing slightly loose defense on Haslem and Chris Bosh to help protect the rim and the lane against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Hibbert said Haslem’s effectiveness forced him to change his approach.
“I think he was really the guy that pushed them, the catalyst for them,” he said. “Just him hitting those shots really made us have to think on defense. Who do we guard? Do we guard the paint, or do we have to go out to the shooters out in the corner.”
Pacers coach Frank Vogel was heavily criticized for taking Hibbert out of Game 1 before James’ game-winning layup. Vogel said he made the move because he was worried Bosh would get open for an easy jumper. The Heat spent 48 minutes showing Pacers fans why Vogel’s Game 1 decision might not have been such a bad idea.