Miami Heat Need More from Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole in 2014 NBA Finals

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Miami Heat Need More from Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole in 2014 NBA Finals
Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

Just about every time the Big Three-era Miami Heat have lost an important postseason game the blame has been solely placed on three players. Not surprisingly, I'm referring to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh

These are the superstars. These are the guys with legacies on the line. These are the guys who "promised" championships. 

But something unordinary happened on Tuesday after Miami was blown out 111-92 by the San Antonio Spurs in Game 3 of the 2014 NBA Finals. 

The conversations from the media, fans and especially inside the Heat locker room were focused on the struggles of Heat point guard Mario Chalmers.

That's not because it's impossible to blame the Big Three for the loss: LeBron had seven turnovers, Wade was horrible in the first half and Bosh scored just nine points during the contest. 

No, everyone was talking about Chalmers because his performance in Game 3, and for the past month, has been so bad that it has Miami in trouble and warrants serious discussion.

There's no getting around it: Chalmers has been an absolute mess recently.

He missed all five of his shot attempts in Game 3 and finished with just two points. This marked the 12th consecutive game that Mario didn't reach double-digits in scoring.

While Chalmers has obviously never been relied on to shoulder the Heat's scoring load, he's still an important offensive player, averaging 9.8 points during the regular season.

The fact that he's scored just 10 points combined through three games is a sizable blow to the Heat's offense. 

Three of Chalmers' five misses in Game 3 came from beyond the arc, marking the seventh consecutive game that Rio has converted one or zero threes. 

Miami's offensive system is predicated on surrounding LeBron James with three-point shooters, and Chalmers emerged as Miami's most efficient outside option (38.5 three-point percentage) in the 2013-14 regular season. 

Chalmers' three-point shot usually helps the Heat's offense function. In Game 3, all it did was elicit groans from the AmericanAirlines Arena crowd. 

Additionally, Chalmers has been sloppy with ball in the Finals, both in terms of handling and passing—he's turned the ball over nine times thus far.

Mario, while usually effective defensively, has been a negative on that end of the floor as well, falling asleep at times, fouling at an extremely high-rate (12 in three games) and having trouble staying with his man. 

Now, one would think the solution to Chalmers' woes wouldn't be so difficult: bench him and play his backup, Norris Cole.

However, there are a few problems with this. Chalmers' game runs through his confidence. He's lost much of it, and that's partly to blame for his struggles.

Bench him and Erik Spoelstra will destroy any semblance of confidence Chalmers has left and, in turn, any chance he fully regains it back to Super Mario levels before this series is over.

But, perhaps more important than that, the reason Spoelstra can't bench Chalmers and go with Cole is because the Cleveland State product hasn't been much better.

When Spoelstra went to Cole in the second half of Game 3 after it was clear that Chalmers hadn't snapped out of his funk, Norris was extremely ball-dominant, simply trying to force his own action instead of properly running the offense through his more skilled teammates. Needless to say, he wasn't successful.

As for the numbers: Cole has scored just 10 points (26.7 field-goal percentage) in 58 minutes through three games. He's turned the ball over five times and has just seven assists. A 40.7 percent three-point shooter in the Conference Finals, Cole has knocked down 1-6 three-point attempts vs. the Spurs.

And while Cole is usually a fantastic on-ball defender, that hasn't been on display in this series.

The duo of Chalmers and Cole has been badly outplayed by Tony Parker and Patty Mills on both sides of the floor in this series. 

ESPN's Michael Wallace took a look at just how bad its been:

Through three games in the series, Parker and Mills have combined to shoot 49.1 percent from the field overall and 50 percent from 3-point range while accounting for 25 points, 7.6 assists and two steals a night. By comparison, Chalmers and Cole are shooting a combined 7-for-27 overall, including 2-of-11 from beyond the arc while contributing just 6.6 points, 5.3 assists and 4.7 turnovers a game.

The Heat can line up without point guards to avoid those matchups going forward, but there's certainly a price to pay if they're forced to use them extensively.

LeBron guarding Tony Parker is helpful in spurts, but the four-time MVP will physically wear down if he's forced to do it for large portions of the game. And matchups such as the 38-year-old Ray Allen guarding the quick and shifty Patty Mills aren't ideal.

Furthermore, adding more ball-handling duties to LeBron's and Wade's already significant responsibilities might be heaping too much on the Heat's stars.

Miami would be much better served simply getting production out of its actual point guards.

 

The Heat don't need Chalmers to score 20 points in Game 4, as he did in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals against the same Spurs, nor do they need a similar outburst from Cole.

Miami just needs its point guards to do what they've proved to be capable of doing in the past: be pests on defense, facilitate the offense and knock down open threes.

And with Miami needing a victory to avoid a 3-1 series deficit, Chalmers and Cole can't wait any longer to return to form. 

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