May 22, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers center Louis Amundson (17) battles for a loose ball with Miami Heat power forward Udonis Haslem (40) in the 4th quarter of game 5 in the 2012 NBA eastern conference semi-finals at the American Airlines Arena. The Heat defeated the Paces 115-83. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
Udonis Haslem's flagrant foul on Tyler Hansbrough earned him a suspension for Game 6 of Miami's second-round series against the Indiana Pacers. Some could say this suspension comes at a bad time for the lifetime Heat player. After struggling with his shot for the entire season, Haslem shot 5-of-6 in Games 4 and 5 to supplement the Heat offense. Now without Chris Bosh and Haslem, how do the Heat close out the Indiana Pacers in Game 6?
In the last two games of this series, the Heat have played well with and without Haslem. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade dominated each third quarter in Games 4 and 5 while Haslem sat on the bench, but the 6-foot-8 Miami native made four field goals in the fourth quarter of Game 4 to protect the Heat lead. It's also noteworthy to acknowledge that the team that has won the rebounding battle has won each game in this series, and Haslem is a good rebounder.
Erik Spoelstra will likely use the same starting lineup he used in the previous two games - Mario Chalmers, Wade, James, Shane Battier and Ronny Turiaf. Frank Vogel may have to use a different starting lineup, though. Danny Granger and David West both sustained injuries in Game 5; West is expected to play but Granger is listed as day-to-day. Battier has done a phenomenal job of defending West and freeing James from that responsibility, and the former Duke standout may play a few more minutes at the four in Game 6.
Battier made four 3-pointers in Game 5, and Miami's 3-point shooting becomes more important without the mid-range shooting of Haslem and Bosh. Mike Miller's continuous injury problems make him a question mark on offense, but Battier, Chalmers and James Jones have to knock down their open shots to space the floor. If not, the Pacers will swarm Wade and James and make it tougher for them to score.
West's injury could be even more significant than Haslem's absence. If West is limited and cannot play a lot, Vogel will have to turn to Hansbrough and Lou Amundson. Both of those players are labeled as "energy guys" whose games don't employ the strength that West has. Miami will be more comfortable using smaller lineups against those two players. Defending West in Game 2 proved to be "taxing" for James, but James won't have to use as much strength defending Hansbrough. James will have to grab lots of rebounds in Game 6 for the Heat to win, as now Miami will miss two of the team's best rebounders. Mario Chalmers grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds in Game 5, and the Heat perimeter players should not try to "leak out" after Pacers field goal attempts but instead crash the glass.
Will James have to play 48 minutes now that both Bosh and Haslem are out? Haslem typically plays in the second and fourth quarters - where James receives his brief moments of rest. It may not be wise to play Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf in tandem since neither of those players can score outside of a layup. The Heat may use a lineup of, say, Chalmers, Wade, Jones, Miller and Anthony while James rests. James will probably play around 42-44 minutes, and Miami should just make sure that the Pacers don't go on a run while the three-time MVP sits.
The injuries to Granger and West could put the Pacers in a tough position to force Game 7 against the Heat with or without Haslem. But the Heat's 3-point shooters need to space the floor without Haslem's jumper, and James may need another double-digit rebounding effort for the Heat to win.