The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs have their “Big Three,” but it’s the unsung heroes from the bench that make the difference.
So far in the NBA Finals, we have seen some outstanding performances from bench players and more of the same is expected heading into a pivotal Game 5 in San Antonio.
Here are a few key pieces that we’ll see coming off the bench.
The Spurs saw an outburst from Gary Neal in Game 3, netting 24 points in 25 minutes of play off the bench. He was San Antonio’s second-highest scorer in the team's 36-point win at home. He also provided four rebounds—all defensive—and was 6-for-10 from three-point range.
Manu Ginobili is the key to igniting San Antonio’s bench. So far in this postseason, he’s averaging 10.3 points per game in 25.4 minutes of play.
Having not started a single contest this season (60 regular-season games, 18 playoff games), he will be counted upon to be the catalyst for the Spurs’ secondary scoring going forward.
In that game, Mike Miller came off the bench and scored 15 points—same as James in 17 fewer minutes. He earned himself a starting spot in Game 4, but was held scoreless. He’ll be expected to return to his bench role where he can provide a jump-start with his ability to hit the three.
Norris Cole is averaging 20.6 minutes and 6.5 points per game off the bench this postseason. He’s a smart, young talent shooting .548 from three-point range. His influence comes directly from spelling Mario Chalmers and he can efficiently run the offense in a similar style.
This series has tilted back and forth every game and shows few signs of evening out. The stars can carry a team over the course of a season, but the teams that win championships have those unsung heroes off the bench.
The players that warm the bench are those who can heat up the floor and fuel a team to victory.