No Seriously, Miami Heat Need Mario Chalmers As Badly As Wade or Bosh
Chalmers has huge responsibilities in the finals. First of all, he has to guard the San Antonio Spurs' best player in Tony Parker. The Spurs guard can carve defenses up, even when not racking up flashy numbers.
The Heat certainly needed him to knock down his outside shots. Miami, the second-most efficient team from outside in the regular season (thanks in part to Chalmers), struggled with its three-point shot in the first three rounds of the postseason.
Without being able to consistently hit from beyond the arc, Miami looked beatable and not like the invincible Heat who won 27 straight games in the regular season. Miami labored through a seven-game series against an inferior Indiana Pacers team.
That can't happen against the Spurs. Miami can't get away with missing open three-pointers created by the slashing of LeBron James.
In Game 1 of the finals, Chalmers didn't hit those shots. It caught James' attention.
We missed some shots. We had some wide-open clips where I had two defenders guarding me. Two plays in the third quarter, I was able to find [Mario Chalmers] for two open threes that he just missed, two great shots.
The Heat as a team shot just 32 percent on three-point attempts in Game 1, and Chalmers shot barely above that paltry mark in the game. He didn't finish well at the basket, either.
On defense, Parker made Chalmers look silly at times. When the game neared its end, coach Erik Spoelstra removed Chalmers from his Parker-guarding duties and LeBron took over. Parker played 40 minutes while turning the ball over zero times, adding 21 points on 50 percent shooting along with six assists.
Watch Parker beat Chalmers on this play:
While obviously he can't take all the blame for the loss, Parker's great play and the Heat not converting from outside can go on Chalmers, He certainly didn't fulfill his duties in Game 1.
Game 2 was a different story for 'Rio, but it wasn't all too surprising of a turnaround given his penchant for showing up in big games.
He did an excellent job preventing Parker from beating the Heat. The Spurs point guard finished with 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting from the field and five turnovers. To hold Parker, whom James described to Alex Kennedy of USA Today as "arguably the best point guard in the league," to a inept performance like that is extremely impressive, and Chalmers deserves the majority of the credit.
But it's what 'Rio did on the offensive end in Game 2 that everyone was buzzing about.
He worked the pick-and-roll to perfection and attacked the basket, making the Spurs pay for their commitment to stopping LeBron.
Check out this third-quarter play:
From Alex Kennedy of USA Today again, Ray Allen did a great job summing up the effect of that.
He attacked and in the pick-and-roll situation, they're going under and he's getting to the paint and making those shots. That forces them to react. And when they have to react, someone else has to help and that's when there's a trickle-down effect and our offense starts to kick in. Then, myself, Mike, Bird and CB get shots and that's really the cadence of how the offense should be.
And when others attacked the basket, Chalmers was there for three-point opportunities. He knocked down half of them. As a team, the Heat shot 52.6 percent from beyond the arc in Game 2.
In this game, it was Chalmers that turned the ball over zero times. He finished with 19 points, which led the team. He finished with a plus/minus of plus-30, which led the team. Parker finished with a plus/minus of minus-27, which was one point better than the player who finished with the game's worst plus/minus, Gary Neal.
Despite the Heat's Big Three collectively taking just four free throws and scoring just 39 points, Miami won Game 2. That was because Chalmers played nearly a perfect game.
What ultimately stands out from Chalmers in Game 2, though, is something we didn't even know occurred until after the game, which happened after the following play.
Chalmers talked about an exchange with LeBron with USA Today:
I felt like we had them on the ropes at the time," the Miami Heat point guard said of his third-quarter and-one. "I told him, 'Let's go for the kill.' He said, 'I'm with you.'
My mindset was just do what I can for the team and go from there.
That basket was the first in Miami's overwhelming 33-5 run.
Chalmers was unofficially the most valuable player in Game 2. With LeBron James on his team, it'll be hard for him to earn such honors again in this series. But don't be at all surprised if the Heat win it all and after this series we're talking about Chalmers being one of the top reasons why.
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