The Miami Heat came into Thursday night's matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers with physicality to send a message that they are not to be overlooked if the two teams do end up meeting in the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
First, it started with Joel Embiid and Trevor Ariza exchanging words for a bit. Then, the game continued to get even more chippy as Sixers center Dwight Howard and Miami veteran Udonis Haslem got into it.
Although the argument between the two veterans didn't lead to blows, Haslem did put his hands on Howard, which led to an early ejection. Just like that, Haslem's season debut ended in two minutes and 40 seconds.
A couple of months ago, when Dwight Howard was the player to get an early ejection against the Los Angeles Lakers, Doc Rivers wasn't happy at all. But the Miami Heat didn't feel the same about their veteran's early ejection on Thursday. In fact, Haslem's early departure was celebrated by his head coach and teammates.
"That’s my favorite moment of the season so far," said Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra. "Just excessive passion, competitiveness, and anger. I just love it. That’s why we roll with U.D. Everybody in that locker room just has great respect and love for him. He’s all about the team. He’s all about these moments."
Former Sixers guard Jimmy Butler didn't have much to say on the altercation, but it shouldn't come as a surprise that he also enjoyed the dust-up between the two veterans on Thursday. “I love confrontation, altercation, and all of that good stuff," Butler said. "I feed off it -- we feed off it. I encourage it.”
“I think it was UD getting his opportunity to be himself," said Heat star Bam Adebayo. "We all know UD. When it happened, I was looking and was like, ‘Okay, he is about to go off.’ Then, sure enough, boom, boom, tech, tech, and he is out of here. I had no problem with it.”
Although it led to a quick ejection, Haslem's antics on Thursday night was clearly part of the recipe for Miami's mentality against the Sixers. Considering the Heat dominated the 76ers 106-94, they clearly had the right idea as they not only sent a message, but they prevented Philly from clinching the first seed once again.