1. Udonis Haslem, Game 6 of 2006 Finals
When reminiscing on the 2006 NBA Finals, the first thing that comes to mind is Dwyane Wade’s heroics, and rightfully so, as Wade put on one of the best finals performances in NBA history.
But in the series clinching Game 6 victory, Udonis Haslem stepped up and provided quality production on both ends of the court. Haslem scored his finals high with 17 points on 8 for 13 shooting and also provided 10 rebounds. Haslem was given the mid-range jumper, and he made Dallas regret every time he was left uncontested.
The big moment for Haslem came in the fourth quarter, as Shaquille O’Neal picked up his fifth foul with 9:54 left in the game. Alonzo Mourning also picked up his fourth foul and played only 2:33 in the fourth. Haslem had to play the entire fourth quarter, and Haslem made sure every minute counted.
Haslem recorded six points and five rebounds in the fourth, and came up with a clutch offensive rebound and put-back off of a Jason Williams missed three to put Miami up 91-88 with 1:21 left in the game. Haslem’s three field goals made also lead the team in the fourth.
For the series, Haslem was the primary defender on Maverick’s star and now Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki. In the first half, Nowitzki had his way, scoring 17 at half on 8 for 12 shooting.
The second half was a completely different story, as Nowitzki shot 2 for 10 from the field, and only scored two points in the fourth quarter. While the Heat swarmed Nowitzki, Haslem was the head of the snake when it came to defending Nowitzki.
On Duncan Robinson’s “The Long Shot podcast”, Haslem described the challenge of defending Nowitzki with his unique skillset.
"“No power forward would set a ball screen on the perimeter and run you off a triple floppy on the baseline. Like it was just not happening, I had not seen it before.”"
What made Haslem’s performance even more impressive was the fact that Haslem was dealing with a strained left shoulder and contusion suffered in Game 2.
To take on the challenge of defending the opposing team’s best player while also mustering up the best offensive outing of the finals on an injured shoulder represented who Haslem was — a gritty player who was willing to do whatever it takes to win no matter the circumstances.
Each Miami star received proper recognition after each finals victory, but there are role guys who also put their best foot forward when needed, and these players all deserve recognition for showing up when it counted the most.