The season began with Udonis Haslem inspiring the Miami Heat with his words. He gave a passionate speech in the locker room nearly seven months ago, talking about how desperately he wanted to win a championship to honor his recently deceased mother.
Now, Haslem is inspiring the Heat with his play.
Or, perhaps more accurately, simply by playing.
He scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half, and had a pair of dunks — the first was his first basket since Nov. 20 — to begin and end a critical 10-0 run. That was the final margin Wednesday in Miami's 85-75 win over Chicago Bulls that tied the Eastern Conference finals at a game apiece.
"Huge. Huge," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "He was the player of the game."
Wade said those words on a night when LeBron James fought off a cold for game-highs of 29 points and 10 rebounds, plus scored nine points in a late 11-2 spurt that sealed the win.
James had the dazzling numbers and spectacular finish, but the spark came from one of the two players left from the 2006 championship season.
Haslem will be in the rotation Sunday when Miami hosts Game 3 of the East finals, the Miami native's first home game since getting injured.