Udonis Haslem

Heat's increased physicality bothers Sixers in Game 2

Heat's increased physicality bothers Sixers in Game 2

Game 1 was just a little too easy for the Sixers. Too much free space in transition, too many open threes, too many offensive rebounds. The Heat were determined to make Game 2 different.

An hour before tipoff, 15-year veteran Udonis Haslem’s focus was clear. “We gotta get into the physical part of the game,” Haslem said. “Make everything tough, make everything physical, raise our level of intensity as their level of intensity has raised. And then secondly, we’ll get into the X’s and O’s. But first of all, just pure competition.”

Miami’s physicality was on another level in Monday’s night 113-103 win (see observations). The Heat picked up Ben Simmons full court, chased Marco Belinelli and JJ Redick tight around every screen, and issued their fair share of “playoff fouls” whenever a Sixer found an inch of free space in the paint. It was a stark contrast to Game 1, when they gave Simmons plenty of room to operate, saw the Sixers make 18 of their 28 three-point attempts and conceded numerous open dunks.

“They were more physical, and I think that was the expectation,” JJ Redick said. “In terms of their schemes, they didn’t change a whole lot. I think the biggest thing was just how they approached their defense on Ben. Instead of sagging off in the paint, they were pressuring full court. Other than that, it was just being more physical all around with our bigs. We had trouble just getting to our plays sometimes.”

The Heat held the Sixers to 7-for-36 shooting from three-point range, their fourth-worst long-range shooting percentage of the season. While a few of those misses were open looks, a big part of the Sixers’ struggles from long range Monday were due to how closely the Heat tailed shooters off the ball, and how often they denied the initial action and made the Sixers take a worse shot.

“I just think we made it tough on them,” Heat guard Josh Richardson said. “They were able to get wherever they wanted last time and if you let them do that then they're just going to punish you. We took it upon ourselves in those last two days to come out tougher and make things harder on them.”

After a dismal second quarter in which they were outscored 34-13 the Sixers responded in the second half. Their shots still weren’t falling from deep, but the Sixers didn’t shy away from the physical challenge. Simmons, who scored 15 of his 24 points in the second half, was involved in plenty of pushing and shoving off the ball with Justise Winslow.

“They were a little bit more physical, but at the same time, our guys can throw bodies around,” Simmons said. “I think that was one of the biggest things.”

This series is going to be a fight, and Redick thinks it’s not the worst thing in the world that the Sixers absorbed a few blows Monday night.

“For the guys who haven’t been through the fire of the playoffs, this will sharpen you and strengthen you as a player, as a man, as a group,” Redick said. “Games like this are good for you, but it doesn’t feel good to lose.”

NBA Notes: Derrick Rose reportedly in contract talks with Cavaliers

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NBA Notes: Derrick Rose reportedly in contract talks with Cavaliers

CLEVELAND -- The Cavaliers could be adding another former MVP to their roster.

Looking to close the gap on the champion Golden State Warriors, Cleveland is in contract talks with free agent guard Derrick Rose, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Thursday. Rose, whose career has been sidetracked by injuries, could sign a one-year deal for the veteran's minimum, according to the person, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks.

Cleveland has salary cap issues and is limited in what it can offer Rose, who made $21.3 million while playing in 64 games for the New York Knicks last season.

ESPN.com first reported the Cavs' pursuit of the 28-year-old Rose. Other teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers, are interested in him.

Although Rose may not be the same player he was in 2011 when he was named the league's MVP while with the Chicago Bulls, he can still score and would be another nice compliment to LeBron James, a four-time MVP (see full story).

Heat: Haslem returns for 15th season
MIAMI -- Udonis Haslem believes he can still play, and the Miami Heat apparently agree.

The three-time NBA champion has signed a one-year, $2.3 million deal to remain with the Heat for what will be his 15th season. Haslem was already the longest-tenured player in Heat history, with all of his NBA seasons coming for his hometown team.

Among active players, only Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have spent the entirety of a career spanning at least 15 years with one franchise.

"It is a great, great, day to have Udonis Haslem sign a contract for his 15th season with the Miami Heat," team president Pat Riley said Thursday, when the contract was announced. "He isn't just Mr. 305, he is a true patriarch of the team. Today we are proud to announce that he is back to lead the Heat again" (see full story).

Jazz: Griffin inks two-way contract
SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Jazz signed big man Eric Griffin to a two-way contract Thursday.

Contract details were not released.

Griffin was a member of the Jazz during NBA summer leagues in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. He averaged 10.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in Vegas.

The 6-foot-8, 205-pound center/forward played for Hapoel Galil Gilboa in the Israeli Basketball Premier League last season, averaging 14.9 points and 7.1 rebounds.

This is the first time the Jazz have used the two-way contracts implemented by the NBA for the upcoming season.

Teams can sign two players to these deals in addition to the 15-man roster. The contracts allow NBA teams to better compensate Gatorade League players expected to spend time with the big league team. Griffin can spend up to 45 days in the NBA.