Udonis Haslem stood. He pointed. He screamed.
Too bad the Miami Heat’s best display of toughness came on the bench.
Their defense just wasn’t good enough and their veteran forward let them know it during a timeout in the third quarter. The Heat took that fight back onto the court and made the Los Angeles Lakers work, but were too far behind and fell into a 2-0 hole in the NBA Finals with a 124-114 loss on Friday night.
Jimmy Butler said Haslem’s message was to play harder.
“That’s what it’s going to take for us to win a championship. Play harder,” Butler said.
“I think we’ve got to do it from the jump, though. It shouldn’t take him telling us to do that. But I like the way we responded to it. But we’ve got guys that when you tell them what it is, they normally respond. So maybe he should just start the game off cussing people out.”
The Heat wasted a strong offensive performance by allowing too many open shots from around and inside their zone defense, and then not chasing down some rebounds when they did force misses. At one point in the third quarter, Anthony Davis made three consecutive baskets on follow shots, the last giving the Lakers an 18-point lead.
Los Angeles finished with 16 offensive rebounds and scored 21 second-chance points.
“I love a lot of the things the way we competed tonight but I think another level would have put us in a position to have an opportunity, a real opportunity there at the end,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Part of the problems were simply a matter of manpower. Without the injured Bam Adebayo, their All-Defensive team center, the Heat were missing the player they could have counted on to grab some of those. He wanted to play, but the Heat decided he needed to rest injuries to his left shoulder and neck.
Goran Dragic was out as well, with a torn left plantar fascia, leaving Miami without its leading scorer in the postseason.
Butler insisted the Heat needed to find a way to win anyway, and he took his best shot. The All-Star forward played 45 minutes and finished with 25 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds, ignoring any pain he felt from a left ankle injury in Game 1.
The guys who tried to replace the two injured starters played well offensively. Tyler Herro, a 20-year-old rookie, became the youngest player to start an NBA Finals game and scored 17 points. Kelly Olynyk came off the bench for 24 points and nine rebounds.
“We need a little bit more from everybody, whatever that is,” Olynyk said.
But they had no answers for Davis, who made 14 of his first 15 shots en route to 32 points. Years ago, Haslem would have taken on the challenge. At 40 years old, the three-time champion has rarely seen the court this season, but LeBron James wasn’t surprised his voice still carries such weight with his teammates.
“Just check his resume,” said James, who won two titles in Miami. “There’s not many guys that talk about it and also be about it, and he’s one of them. If you want to be in the foxhole, that’s somebody you want to be in the foxhole with.”
The Heat responded well after his timeout tirade. Guard Kendrick Nunn, at 6-foot-2, blocked a shot by Davis, who stands 8 inches taller, in the fourth quarter.
Miami needs more plays like that in Game 3. The No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference are already a big underdog against the top-seeded Lakers, and the gap is even bigger without Adebayo and Dragic.
Perhaps they will be back Sunday. The Heat need to be better either way.
“If you want something badly enough, you’ll figure it out,” Spoelstra said. “Our group is extremely stubborn, persistent, and we just need to figure out how to overcome this opponent.”
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