Miami Heat's Supporting Cast the Difference in NBA Finals

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Miami Heat's Supporting Cast the Difference in NBA Finals
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Miami Heat's title run went completely according to plan: Shane Battier and LeBron shared duty as nominal power forwards, Mike Miller hobbled his way into a phenomenal title-worthy performance, Norris Cole transformed his game with a haircut and Mario Chalmers made each of the Heat's playoff opponents pay.

Miami's role players certainly tend to make things interesting, and though they're typically stacked into a human lightning rod, this time around that group just so happened to nudge along LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to an NBA title. Not a bad ride for the league's most maligned supporting cast.

Miller's Game 5 performance was by far the most cinematic, if only because there's a certain glory to a hunchbacked shooter trotting his way into spot-up three-pointers. He made seven threes in the entire series, and every single one of them came on Thursday night. Miller's jumper may have taken its time to show up in the NBA Finals, but it certainly has a knack for timely appearances, if nothing else. 

I'm still not sure I understand how Cole managed to resurrect his ability to play pro-level basketball, but I don't question the powers of the high top fade. A trip to the barber shop seemed to instill a remarkable confidence in Cole, who was suddenly taking the shots he had otherwise passed up on, and better yet for Miami: he was actually making them.

Cole never quite lived up to the promise he showed early in the season, but the fact that his confidence was salvaged so late in the season was incredibly valuable to the Heat—even if more so in Game 4 than Game 5.

Battier's exploits likely deserve an anthology of some sort. The analytics wunderkind isn't as quick or nearly as effective as he once was, but Battier's defensive versatility is among the reasons why the Heat are being crowned champions, and why so many legacies are supposedly being rewritten at this very moment.

The narrative would have been doctored quite differently had Battier not been around to relieve James at crucial moments, available in the corners to hit threes, and flexible enough defensively to adjust for Bosh's absence.

It was in Chalmers the Heat might have seen the greatest range in potential benefit to detriment. When Battier's shot is off, he still provides some defensive value. When Miller's shot is off, he's pulled from the game. When Cole isn't contributing, he disappears from the rotation. But Chalmers is in a position where the Heat largely have to play him, and yet his tendency to commit costly turnovers and force difficult shots turns him into the more than occasional net-negative.

Chalmers has the potential to be a legitimately destructive force, and yet in Games 4 and 5, he was among Miami's best players. His two outings totaled 35 points and 10 assists, output highlighted by the disappearance of Chalmers' zero-sum opposite.

Miami's title run started with—and was propelled by—James, Wade and Bosh. But credit each of these role players for their contributions in various increments, be it Cole's limited finals minutes or Battier's continued work throughout. They were all important. They were all valuable. Hell, they were all essential. This was a series that the Heat could very easily have lost, but James was his most magnificent self, and for perhaps the first time in his NBA career, he had the kind of help he so desperately needed.

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