After the Miami Heat's game one debacle on the boards against the Chicago Bulls, many thought Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra would surely make drastic changes to the lineup. How could you stick with a group that dominated on the glass all night long?
Well, Spoelstra decided he wasn't going to make any changes at all for game two. Zydrunas Ilgauskas was still sitting on the bench in a suit, as was Erick Dampier.
And he heard it from the cyper universe. Heat fans updated their Twitters and Facebook statuses moaning and groaning about Spoelstra's decision making. Bloggers and even widely-heralded analysts said that Spoelstra had no idea what he was doing; that he was being stubborn.
Perhaps he was being stubborn, but in the end it didn't matter. Some way, some how, the smaller Heat managed to win the battle on the glass against the bigger, badder Bulls - something that hardly anyone deemed possible when the starting lineups were revealed on Wednesday night.
Did Spoelstra get lucky? Or did he really know something that everyone else didn't? Did he honestly believe Jamaal Magloire was the big man the Heat needed dressed out, not Dampier or even Ilgauskas?
Personally, I tend to believe he got lucky. I honestly think that deep down even Spoelstra himself knows he got lucky.
The first quarter of game two looked a lot like the four quarters of game one. The Bulls were once again dominating the boards and finding second chance opportunities on nearly every possession.
Heat fans started panicking. Spoelstra started panicking. He put groups on the floor that had never played together the entire season. That's hardly the ideal situation for a conference final game.
He put Udonis Haslem in the game a lot earlier than many expected and proceeded to play him for thirteen straight minutes - something no one would have believed would happen if you told them it would before the game. Something else no one could have told you, including Spoelstra himself, was how great Haslem looked and how much he changed the game.
Sure, Spoelstra did say that he knew Haslem was finally ready. But 13 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and a block ready? Not after playing just seven postseason minutes prior to Wednesday night, no way.
Luckily for Spoelstra, Haslem was his and the Heat's saving grace. The Miami native and former Gator not only dominated the boards, but completely changed the entire dynamic of the game. He contributed on offense, boxed out down low, and added grit to Miami's defense.
The heart and soul of the Miami Heat was back in full form, just in the nick of time. The team was finally fully healthy and it couldn't have come at a better moment.
However, you can't help but think of what might have happened had Haslem played like he was expected to - seeing 15 or so minutes and contributing a little, but by no means doing anything game changing. Would Miami still have knotted up the series at 1-1?
Could they have done it without his energy and inspiring performance?
You also have to take a look at Miami's center production. Joel Anthony and Jamaal Magloire combined for just four rebounds. Can the Heat honestly depend on four rebounds from its centers and think it can win the battle on the boards on a consistent basis in this series?
I think not.
Spoelstra should consider dressing out Dampier in place of someone like Magloire or even Eddie House, who didn't see the floor at all in game two. Dampier was quoted earlier this week saying that he is healthy and waiting for his name to be called upon. His presence down low certainly couldn't hurt the Heat, especially if compared to what Magloire has done over the two games thus far.
However, what game two revealed more than anything is that Spoelstra can afford to make questionable lineup decisions and get away with it.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. And now you can add Udonis Haslem into that mix after his performance on Wednesday night.
Two of the best players in the world can do that. They can save a coach from being defeated by his decision making; they can singe-handedly dig their teams out of holes. James and Wade combined for 53 points and 19 rebounds. Take away one of their performances and replace it with their performance on Sunday night and Miami probably does not win game two.
But that's the beauty of a team like this with so much talent - it can get away with a lot because a majority of the time, its superstars will be there to put the team on their backs. The question is, can Spoelstra get away with it for the rest of the series?
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