As the Heat trailed by double digits in the second half, they started to mount a comeback, and Haslem help activate his teammates to make a 115-100 win possible.
Jimmy Butler, who scored 17 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, felt that Haslem helped him flip the proverbial switch.
“He literally came to me and said, ‘Do not let us lose this game. Win it,'” Butler said of Haslem’s message. “And he came to me at about eight minutes in the third quarter. It was like: ‘Hit the switch. Turn it on.’ And for him to be in my corner like that — he’s played with some greats, let’s not get that wrong. But for him to have that confidence in me, it goes a long way.”
Haslem is now in his 17th season with Miami. As the oldest member of the roster, he’s been there and done that, as he’s played on all three of the Heat’s championship squads.
Although Haslem plays very little at this point of his career, his voice carries lots of weight with his teammates, a fact corroborated by head coach Erik Spoelstra.
“The fifth-seeded Heat have beaten the top-seeded Bucks mentally and physically throughout the series,” wrote ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “Spoelstra’s group has gotten contributions from up and down the roster, including a 20-point, 16-rebound performance from All-Star big man Bam Adebayo in Friday’s win.
“But it was Haslem, the wise voice of the group, who garnered respect after Friday’s win. Spoelstra went as far as to say Haslem was ‘controlling the huddles’ at times to motivate his teammates to play better.
“‘UD (Haslem) told Jimmy, ‘You go out there and be the best player on this floor. No matter what happens, you’re going to lead us to this win,” Meyers Leonard said. ‘And that’s what he’s done. His level of focus, when it comes to the scout, getting guys involved in the offense, his intangibles on the defensive end are just off the charts. There’s no other way to put it other than the fact that Jimmy Butler is a damn good leader. He’s a damn good teammate, and he is one hell of a player. And he is high-level impact on both ends.'”
There’s an old saying that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. It seems to be a core tenet of the Heat’s culture, which ultimately emanates from team president Pat Riley.
The Bucks may be more talented on paper, as they possess the presumptive MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo. But at this point, the Heat are the better team as a whole.