Former Heat rival credits Udonis Haslem as difference-maker in 2011 Finals run

​​Joakim Noah opens up on the famed playoff series between the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat.
Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat
Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat / Mike Ehrmann/GettyImages

On a recent episode of “The OGs Show” podcast, NBA legends Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller welcomed college basketball legend and fellow Gator, Joakim Noah.

During their conversation, Noah reminisced with the former Miami Heat stars about the 2011 Eastern Conference finals series between his former team, the Chicago Bulls, and the Heat, and credited Haslem for changing the series.

"The adjustment that you guys made was ... we were f*****g you guys up on the glass and the adjustment was ... Udonis Haslem came in Game 2. You hadn't played in like four months and it changed the series."

Noah and the Bulls secured a 103-82 victory against the Miami Heat in the first game of the conference finals. With the Bulls holding the best record in the league, they earned home-court advantage for the first two games of the series. Derrick Rose was the top scorer for the Bulls with 28 points, while Joakim dominated the boards with 14 rebounds. However, in Game 2, the Heat responded strongly on the road, claiming an 85-75 win. 

As the series shifted back to Miami, the Heat won two consecutive games before finishing off the Bulls in Game 5 at home. The sudden decline left many fans questioning what went wrong for Chicago after their initial victory. The former center advocated that Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra's decision to utilize Udonis Haslem during the playoffs played a crucial role in the outcome.

Haslem mentioned in the episode that in November 2010 he had undergone surgery during the season to repair a torn ligament in his foot due to suffering a Lisfranc ligament tear. Consequently, his participation in the season was limited to only 13 games, and he was unable to participate in the remainder of the regular season. 

However, despite this setback, Haslem recovered for nearly six months and made a comeback during the second round of the playoffs. UD stepped up when the team needed him the most, playing a crucial role in securing a significant victory against Chicago. Subsequently, Udonis displayed his resilience by participating in all six games of Miami's 2011 NBA Finals run, despite their unfortunate loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

Noah and the Bulls were a formidable force in the league during the early 2010s. The team achieved great success under the guidance of head coach Tom Thibodeau, who is currently with the New York Knicks.

This was largely attributed to the outstanding performance of their star player Derrick Rose, a Chicago native. Many believed that the Bulls had the potential to go all the way and win the championship during the 2010-11 season. Rose became the youngest MVP in league history that same year, coinciding with LeBron James’ infamous move to South Beach. 

It was James’ first season in Miami, alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, during what became known as the "Big Three" Era. However, the trio faced significant challenges in their first year together. 

Interestingly, the Bulls swept the Heat in all three regular-season games, with Noah leading the defensive charge. Despite this, and Chicago having the best record in the league at the time, they ultimately fell to Miami in the Eastern Conference finals, unable to overcome the Heat's dominance. 

“There’s a lot of trauma that comes with losing at the highest level,” Noah said on the Bulls rivalry with the Heat during the podcast.

While appearing on ”The OGs,” Noah reflected on the Bulls and Heat rivalry, noting that losing to Miami in the playoffs took him a long time to get over. He explained, that falling short of winning a championship was a hard pill to swallow, as it’s something he and others worked hard for their whole careers.