Game 5 of the 2013 NBA Finals is officially in the books, as the San Antonio Spurs picked up a convincing 114-104 win over the Miami Heat. As a result, the Spurs have taken a 3-2 series lead and are thus one game away from winning the NBA championship.
The question is, which players must step up in Game 6?
Certain players salvaged their reputation in Game 5, but cannot afford to let their foot off the gas pedal. Others have underwhelmed when it's mattered most and must now step up to provide the impact necessary to lead their team to a win in Game 6.
So who must step up to win this game?
Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat
During Game 2 of the NBA Finals, Mario Chalmers led the Miami Heat to a 103-84 win with a game-high 19 points. In the three games since then, however, Chalmers is averaging 4.3 points on 21.1 percent shooting from the field.
If the Heat stand any chance of winning Game 6, they'll need Chalmers to turn things around.
Chalmers may not be a member of the Big Three, but he's played at a poor enough level where the Heat went without a point guard late in Game 5. When he does see the floor in Game 6, it'll be on Chalmers to step up and prove that his Game 2 performance was not a fluke.
If he doesn't step up, the Heat will rule him out of their game plan and the Spurs will exploit positional mismatches.
If Chalmers is able to step up and hit the corner three, however, the Heat could counter Danny Green's hot shooting. With the Spurs possessing an abundance of three-point marksmen, Miami will need all hands on deck.
Chalmers is at the forefront of the role players who need to step up for a Miami win.
Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs
Oftentimes, a 35-year-old player who steps up for more than 20 points in a playoff game will be viewed as a strong contributor who was granted his 15 minutes of fame. In this instance, however, that 35-year-old is a Hall of Famer who is still vital to his team's success.
Who will win Game 6 of the NBA Finals?
Manu Ginobili, we're looking at you.
Ginobili was spectacular during Game 5, tallying 24 points and 10 assists in 33 minutes of play. From off-balance three-pointers and step-back jumpers to intelligent transition fouls, we saw Ginobili do everything for the Spurs.
The question is, can he do it again in Game 6?
If the Spurs stand any chance of closing out the series on the road, they'll need Ginobili to continue scoring at a high level. While a 20-point performance isn't quite necessary, Ginobili must be able to pick up the scoring slack and facilitate at a high clip.
Ginobili scored 13 points in Game 1, had six assists in Game 3 and went for 24 and 10 in Game 5—all Spurs wins. It's clear what he needs to do.
LeBron James, Miami Heat
If the series ended today, there would be no way to justify the NBA Finals MVP award being handed to LeBron James. His best game came during a loss, his second-best performance saw him and Dwyane Wade taking control and in Game 2 LeBron played poorly until the game was already over.
In Game 5, LeBron's well-rounded stat line was matched by 8-of-22 shooting from the field.
With the Heat on the brink of elimination, LeBron's legacy will be riding on how he performs. While he's not to blame for Miami's losses, James hasn't taken control of this series in the manner we've come to expect.
He'll need to step up in the clutch if Miami is to survive Game 6.
LeBron James is shooting 26.7% on FG & 11.1% on 3-pt FG in clutch time (last 5 Mins, +/- 5 Pts) over the last 3 NBA Finals series.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 14, 2013
Can he come through?
With the season on the line, LeBron is in position to put forth the type of legendary performance that has made the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant the players they are today. He's also in danger of seeing his legacy sustain irreparable damage.
The pressure is on.