Miami Heat: The Defining Moment from the 2011-12 Season for Every Player

John Friel@@JohnFtheheatgodAnalyst IJuly 6, 2012

Miami Heat: The Defining Moment from the 2011-12 Season for Every Player

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    The season's over and we've already moved onto the ongoing free agency talk?

    Not in Miami Heat-land. Well, Heat-land is currently occupied with the thought of Ray Allen possibly joining the team, but they're also content and relieved with the idea that their team has finally won a championship after two years of endless scrutiny and criticism.

    Oh, the criticism and scrutiny will return. It's always going to be there, and it'll probably be worse next year because the Heat are champions. Luckily, for all our sakes, the Heat already have one championship and that's a significant piece of criticism that will have to be used for a different team.

    Even though the season ended more than two weeks ago, it's still always a pleasure to relive the trials, obstacles and tribulations that led to the Heat garnering their second title in franchise history. There's always so much more of a story than any box-score can indicate, which is why you will soon read about all of the Heat players and their defining moments of the 2011-12 NBA season.

    From Eddy Curry to LeBron James, each Heat player played their part in the Heat winning a championship. While some didn't have as significant an impact as others, all 15 players all provided something to this team when they most needed it.

    We take the time to celebrate those accomplishments by taking a look at each Heat player and reliving their defining moment and game of the season.

Eddy Curry

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    Defining Moment

    After spending the previous season without a job due to ongoing weight issues, Eddy Curry made his second NBA debut with the Miami Heat.

    That debut just so happened to be a nationally televised event pinning the Miami Heat against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Heat would go on to win 98-87, but not before showing off a little of Curry, who ended up playing six minutes in the first half.

    Curry had a spectacular game for someone who hadn't played professional basketball in a season. A good-looking layup in traffic, a tip-slam and a pair of free throws saw Curry finish the night with six points to go along with three boards.

    Curry would be seldom seen the rest of the year, but would finish off the season with 10 points and four rebounds in the Heat's regular season finale against Washington.

    Defining Game

    6 points (2-of-3 shooting from field, 2-of-2 on free throws) and 3 rebounds vs Los Angeles Lakers

Juwan Howard

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    Defining Moment

    The Miami Heat weren't looking too good following their Game 3 loss at the hands of the Indiana Pacers.

    Not only were the pushed around on the court, but they were also beaten at the middle school insults category as well. Notable benchwarmer and second year player Lance Stephenson performed a choke signal in LeBron James' direction following a missed technical free throw. It did little to spark the Heat as they'd end up losing the game by 19.

    However, Juwan Howard, the Heat's 39-year-old mentor, wasn't having any of it. Prior to Game 4, Howard approached Stephenson and gave him a piece of his mind on the matter. It was the first of a few statements the Heat would make towards the Pacers before ultimately defeating them in six games.

    What Howard lacks in his impact on the court, he makes up for it off the court by mentoring the younger players, keeping his teammates focused, and sticking up for his teammates.

    It's not the first time Howard has done this either. Last year, Howard shoved Hilton Armstrong after the Wizards center performed a reckless foul on Heat center Joel Anthony.

    Defining Game

    Game 5 vs Thunder 0-of-1 shooting in three minutes 

    Juwan Howard didn't do much for the Heat this year on the stat-sheet, but he absolutely deserved those three precious minutes that ended the NBA Finals.  

    Howard is a free agent this year and is expected to retire.

Dexter Pittman

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    Defining Moment

    The Dexter Pittman experiment isn't coming to an end anytime soon. Pat Riley recently announced that he'd like to keep the bulky center for another season.

    So, there's always that to look forward to for next year.

    Pittman had his moments on the court, but none more defining than his forearm shiver across Lance Stephenson's throat.

    This, too, was a retaliation following Stephenson's ill-advised attempt at a joke towards the reigning MVP.

    It resulted in Pittman getting suspended for three games and will most likely forever label him as a dirty player.

    Defining Game

    16 points (7-of-11 from field, 2-of-2 from foul line) and two rebounds

    In a blowout win over the Charlotte Bobcats, Pittman was given 18 minutes and used it well, finishing the game with 16 points.

    Pittman actually has a semi-decent offensive skillset from the little we have seen of him. His footwork is solid and he can throw down when he's with a close proximity to the rim, although he'll need to stay out of foul trouble in order to play more significant minutes.

Terrel Harris

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    Defining Moment

    At least he can say he scored three points in the NBA Finals. Outside of that, there wasn't much to say about Terrel Harris' rookie season with the Miami Heat.

    Harris was used sparingly throughout the season and only began to receive legitimate chances at proving himself late in the season. He'd record 10 points, six boards and four assists in a loss to Memphis, but it pales in comparison to the impact he had in an early season outing against the Atlanta Hawks.

    With both Dwyane Wade and LeBron James sidelined, Harris came off the bench to play 43 minutes in a double-overtime thriller. The Heat would eventually win 116-109 thanks in part to the heroics of Chris Bosh, but Harris made his impact felt often.

    Harris, a 6'4" guard, finished with 14 rebounds, seven coming off the offensive glass. All of those extra possessions Harris provided turned out to be a key element leading to the improbable Heat victory.

    His defining moment, though? This behind-the-back pass to Bosh following a Hawks turnover.

    Defining Game

    9 points (3-of-9 shooting from field, 1-of-5 on three-pointers, 2-of-4 on free throws), 14 rebounds and four assists in 43 minutes, 43 seconds.

James Jones

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    Defining Moment

    James Jones is the definition of one of Erik Spoelstra's oft-spoken motto's—"Always stay ready."

    Jones doesn't receive consistent minutes, but he always comes out firing and ready to make shots in the chances he does receive. Even with the spotty minutes throughout the year, Jones managed to convert on 40 percent of his three-point attempts, better than his overall field-goal percentage of 38 percent.

    However, Jones defining moment doesn't come via three-pointer, but actually one of the more hilarious moments of the entire NBA season.

    During the Heat's Game 4 win against Indiana, Jones pump-faked his defender and started to drive. Usually you'd see him pull-up after a few feet in, but he decided to do the impossible by driving in and attempting to dunk for probably his first time in a Miami Heat uniform.

    Instead, Jones jumped way too early, got his shot blocked and fell down.

    Why is this the defining moment? Because it's a reminder to everyone, especially Jones, that he is a spot-up three-point shooter and that's all he was meant to be.

    Defining Game

    18 points (6-of-8 shooting on three's), 4 steals and 1 rebound vs Detroit

Joel Anthony

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    Defining Moment

    Joel Anthony may be an excellent defender and hustle player, but his offensive game (or lack thereof) has overshadowed so many of his accomplishments over the years.

    Because when he does stuff like this, you can see why people tend to not take Joel Anthony too seriously.

    However, Anthony vastly improved his offensive game over the summer heading into the 2011-12 campaign. While he wasn't exactly being looked at to score, Anthony took advantage of his opportunities and showcased softer hands and a softer touch around the basket, showing off a consistent hook-shot from within close.

    His defining moment on the offensive came during a game against the Atlanta Hawks, where Anthony not only surprisingly caught the ball, but proceeded to finish with a dunk on three different Hawk defenders.

    Defining Game

    0 points (0-of-1 shooting), 6 rebounds and 5 blocks in destruction of 'Linsanity'

    Watching 'Linsanity' come to a crashing halt might have been one of the sweetest things to happen to sports all year.

    It's disappointing that the story had to come to an end, but our sanity was spilling over the top because of the ridiculous amount of coverage that was being bestowed upon a player who had played three weeks of good basketball.

    The Heat's defense harassed Jeremy Lin into eight turnovers and only eight points, with Anthony sending back one of his nine missed shots on the night.

Ronny Turiaf

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    Defining Moment

    Ronny Turiaf didn't do much in the few games he played with the Miami Heat after being signed by the club near the end of the year.

    Turiaf was brought in for some needed frontcourt help near the end of the year, as a player who could hopefully make his impact felt against the bigger teams in the postseason like Chicago or Indiana.

    Unfortunately for Turiaf, he was mostly restricted to dancing on the sidelines as LeBron James assumed the responsibility of being the team's primary rebounder after Chris Bosh went down with an injury.

    Ronny's top moments with the Heat were by far his celebrations.

    Defining Game

    8 points (2-of-6 from field, 0-of-1 on three's, 4-of-6 on free throws), 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal vs Detroit

Norris Cole

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    Defining Moment

    The All-Star break hit Norris Cole like a ton of bricks.

    Following a star-studded first half to the season, Norris' playing time became spotty after several games of poor decision making. Cole wasn't just missing easy jumpers, but playing out-of-control, not looking for his teammates, and getting himself in situations which usually resulted in a turnover.

    As a result, Cole was out of the rotation come playoff time. Before Game 4 against the Thunder, Cole only had eight total field-goals in the entirety of the postseason. He would mostly be used in garbage-time or just thrown out in instances where Spoelstra decided to give him a chance.

    Cole was granted a significant chance early on in Game 4. With the Thunder holding a 33-16 lead late in the first quarter, Cole hit a three-pointer to end the quarter and close the deficit to 14. He'd then hit a layup and a three-pointer at the beginning of the second to carry over a run that would eventually stretch out to 16-0 in the Heat's favor.

    The huge run by the Heat completely wiped out the Thunder's massive lead and made it a game once again.

    Cole finished the night with those eight points, but they may have been the biggest eight points by any other Heat player in the entire season because of its impact.

    Defining Game

    20 points (8-of-16 from field, 0-of-3 from deep, 4-of-6 from foul line), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals vs Boston

    Does anybody remember when this happened? I know it was a long time ago, but remember when Norris Cole, who was in his second ever NBA game, completely went off on the Boston Celtics in the fourth quarter?

    It was a necessity, too. The Celtics kept leaving Cole open to defend Wade or James and he kept making them pay for it with fearless mid-range jumpers over and over again.

Udonis Haslem

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    Defining Moment

    It was a tough year for Udonis Haslem.

    There were several moments throughout the season where I couldn't help but shake my head and wonder what happened to the warrior I used to know. The mid-range jumper was broken and Haslem wasn't getting the necessary life to fight for rebounds as he once could. It resulted in Haslem having the worst statistical year of his career, including shooting a career-low 42 percent from the field.

    Haslem made up for all of it, however, with his hammer fists that were laid upon the shoulder, and partially the face, of Indiana Pacers' forward Tyler Hansbrough during Game 1 of the Heat's semifinals series.

    The hit was a retaliation from the play before where Hansbrough roughed up Dwyane Wade on a drive.

    Once again, it was a message being sent that the Heat aren't going to just lay down and continue to take the physical abuse they receive on a nightly basis.

    Sending messages has been Haslem's top attribute since joining the team in 2003, and sure enough he sent his biggest message at an excellent time, even if he would get suspended for the next game.

    Defining Game

    12 points (4-of-6 from field, 4-of-4 from foul line), 17 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal vs Boston (Game 4)

    Although the Heat ended up losing this game in overtime, Udonis Haslem made sure to do everything in his power to replace the vacancy left by Chris Bosh.

    The 17 rebounds was a season-high for Haslem.

Shane Battier

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    Defining Moment

    For the majority of the regular season, not too many Heat fans were taking a heavy liking to Shane Battier.

    Sure, they loved his defense and his ability to defend multiple positions, but the fact that he was missing wide-open three-pointers was hurting the Heat and causing the team to lose rhythm. Because Battier wasn't making three's, the defense continued to create more pressure inside to deter LeBron James or whoever else from driving.

    Battier then had a change of heart when it came to missing three-pointers. Once the Heat's series against the Boston Celtics began, Battier started hitting the three-pointers the Heat expected him to make when they signed him over the summer.

    His defining moment, however, came in the Heat's Game 2 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. With the Thunder attempting to stage a frantic rally from 17 points down, Battier managed to launch and convert a banked-in three-pointer from 30 feet away to help stretch the lead for the Heat. It was Battier's fifth triple of the night.

    The Heat needed those three points, because they'd only end up winning 100-96.

    Defining Game

    17 points (6-of-9 from field, 4-of-6 from three, 1-of-2 from foul line), 4 rebounds, 1 steal vs Thunder (Game 1)

    Although the Heat ended up losing Game 1 against the Thunder, seeing Shane Battier finish with 17 points and beginning to hit three-pointers was a godsend for the team.

    With Bosh still not fully recovered, the Heat needed all they could get from one of their veteran role players.

    They got it in a big way as Battier would shoot a combined 15-of-26 from beyond the arc in the Finals.

Mike Miller

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    Defining Moment and Game

    Heading into Game 5 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, it became established thinking that Mike Miller was going to become a victim of the amnesty clause.

    Miller had yet to play a healthy game with the Heat in the two seasons he had been in Miami, and was providing nothing for the Heat in their NBA Finals series against OKC. In fact, Miller had played ten minutes or less in all four games prior to Game 5.

    Erik Spoelstra threw Miller in the game just to see if he could make a shot. Miller's first shot from the corner was nothing-but-net, so 'Spo' kept him in.

    Miller ended up shooting 7-of-8 from beyond the arc—the most three-pointers converted in an NBA Finals game by a player who didn't start. Miller contributed to half of the Heat's 14 three-pointers, which happened to tie an NBA Finals record for most three-pointers in a game by a team.

    It also happened to lead the Heat to a 121-106 victory to close out the series. Miller's three-pointers kept the Heat with a sizable lead in the first half, then made it a laugher in the second half with a few more.

    He's not getting let go anytime soon. The only chance he leaves is if he ends up retiring, which has sadly become a possibility.

    Defining Game

    Miller...Game 5

    23 points (7-of-11 from field, 7-of-8 from three, 2-of-2 from foul line), 5 rebounds, 1 steal

Mario Chalmers

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    Defining Moment

    I've been saying this for years, but I don't think the majority of the NBA community was aware of it until the end of Game 4—Mario Chalmers has some serious cojones.

    As far as I see it, he's still riding the high from that three-pointer he hit over Derrick Rose in the NCAA championship.

    Chalmers is a player filled with loads of confidence. Hell, he has to be filled with confidence, or else he would never be able to take the verbal abuse his superstar teammates unleash on him. That confidence is what allows Chalmers to excel in tight spots, much like the one the Heat were in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

    With LeBron James sitting out due to a serious cramp, the Heat needed a hero that could make a shot and give the Heat a comfortable margin. The Heat found themselves up 99-96 with less than a minute remaining and with the thought of Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook possibly hitting a big three, the team knew they had to score on this possession.

    Wade dished out to Mario Chalmers who quickly took advantage of Westbrook, who leaned a little too far to the wrong side on Mario's fake. Chalmers then drove it in and fearlessly converted a layup over the outstretched hands of Serge Ibaka to give the Heat a 101-96 lead with 45 seconds remaining.

    The Heat would go on to win 104-98 leading to a 3-1 series lead.

    Defining Game

    25 points (9-of-15 from field, 3-of-9 from three, 4-of-5 on free throws), 3 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals vs Thunder (Game 4)

Chris Bosh

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    Defining Moment

    It's disappointing to know that LeBron James is receiving all of the credit for the Miami Heat defeating the Boston Celtics in the Conference Finals.

    This Miami Heat team probably isn't going anywhere without Chris Bosh having the shooting night of his career in Game 7.

    Despite still being hampered from an abdominal strain he suffered in Game 1 of the semifinals gainst Indiana, Bosh was brought back in Game 5 of the Conference Finals. He had solid games in Games 5 and 6, but nothing compared to what he unleashed in Game 7.

    With Bosh on the floor, the Celtics found themselves a little bit more tired than usual. Not only that, but they also had to actually pay attention to Bosh, which meant Kevin Garnett being unable to roam around the floor and throw double-teams at Dwyane Wade.

    Bosh took advantage when he was open, including hitting the open corner three-pointer that turned an 83-82 lead into an 86-82 lead.

    The Heat ended up winning the game 101-89, with Bosh's three-pointer being the beginning of an offensive and defensive onslaught by the Heat over the next seven minutes.

    It's the defining moment because it shows just how reliable of a player Bosh is. It's a shame the the Heat don't use him as much as they could in crucial moments, but who am I to argue when the team is hoisting the trophy.

    Defining Game

    19 points (8-of-11 from field, 3-of-4 from deep), 8 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block vs Boston

Dwyane Wade

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    Defining Moment

    This season wasn't one of Dwyane Wade's finest. To be quite honest, it was one of the worst we've seen since he became plagued with injuries from the beginning of the 2006-07 season to the end of the 2007-08 season.

    Turns out that injuries were playing a factor in Wade's performance. He dealt with various minor injuries throughout the regular season, but it really became noticeable once the playoffs began. That sense of urgency we usually see from Wade wasn't there and it brought about trade rumours, ridiculous as that may sound.

    Eventually, Wade would recover with several huge games against Indiana, doing as much as he could against a Boston team that constantly double-teamed him, and scored 19 or more points in every one of the Heat's games against the Thunder.

    Wade's defining moments come off the court. In a statement released a few months back, Dwyane Wade had admitted that he pulled LeBron James aside and had told him that the team now belongs to him. That's right; Wade, a perennial All-Star and Finals MVP, told the new guy on his team that he is the new leader of the team and promptly gave him the keys.

    Wade cited LeBron not playing comfortably as a reason. Instead of taking turns, Wade just flat-out allowed James to take over, facilitate and do the things that have allowed him to become known as the best player in the NBA.

    Defining Game

    41 points (17-of-25 from field, 7-of-8 from foul line), 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals vs Indiana (Game 6)

    It was only three games prior where Dwyane Wade had recorded five points on 2-of-13 shooting in a Game 3 loss to the Indiana Pacers. Wade responded with a 30-point outing the next game and then 28 the next, both resulting in Heat victories.

    While the huge bounceback in Game 4 could be argued as Wade's defining moment, I can't help but give the nod to Wade's Game 6 performance against Indiana.

    It was classic Dwyane Wade; maneuvering through double-teams, hitting mid-range jumpers and hitting improbable shots near the rim against defenders who were much bigger than him. It was the type of game from Wade that reminds you that he is still the guy who nearly won MVP in 2009.

LeBron James

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    Defining Moment

    For every Hall-of-Famer that has ever stepped onto a basketball court, they can always look back to the one moment that paved the path to a career full of individual and team success.

    LeBron James had his moments in the postseason prior to the 2012 NBA Finals. The dunk on Kevin Garnett, the game-winner against Orlando or even the dunk on Rasheed Wallace could all be described as moments that truly illuminate and represent the duration of his career. However, with nothing to show behind it, they're not moments that have led to the success that LeBron has always craved.

    No, that moment came in Game 4. Only moments after suffering a cramp, which was so severe he needed an assistant coach and Juwan Howard to help him off the court, James limped on the court and gave it the best he could. There was so little he could do, his ability to drive and create space was nonexistent, but there was only one thing he needed to do.

    With the game tied at 94 apiece and only three minutes remaining, James had to leave his mark in order for the Heat to come out of Game 4 with a 3-1 series lead. Dribbling the ball at the top of the perimeter, James was left in a spot he had seen too many times before—attempting to be the hero. In past instances, James had failed in this spot but the 2012 NBA postseason was like none other for the reigning MVP.

    James took a few steps closer to the three-point line, shot, and converted the biggest shot of his career over the outstretched hands of Thabo Sefalosha to give the Heat a 97-94 lead. It would be the last shot James would make as he would soon be taken out for the rest of the game moments after.

    As we all know, the Heat won 104-98 and would win the NBA Finals the very next game. LeBron James deservedly won his first Finals MVP and the collective sound of one million mouths finally stopped talking.

    Defining Game

    45 points (19-of-26 from field, 2-of-4 from deep, 5-of-9 from foul line), 15 rebounds, 5 assists at Boston (Game 6)

    Before LeBron hit that huge shot and won the NBA Finals, however, he was in a little bit of a pickle in the Heat's Conference Finals series against the Boston Celtics.

    With his team facing a 3-2 deficit heading into Boston, James made it a point to make sure that nobody will end up blaming the Heat failing to win the championship on him again.

    From the start, James was on a mission as he befuddled countless Celtics defenders with his ability to hit the mid-range jumper. As they say, once LeBron begins to hit the jumper it becomes nearly impossible to stop him, and that's exactly what happened.

    James couldn't stop converting shots as he would lead the Heat to a 98-79 victory in front of a stunned Celtics crowd. LeBron's 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists was the most anyone had seen in a playoff game since Wilt Chamberlain did it in 1962.