Jun 20, 2012, 2:20 AM EDT
In the NBA Finals last year, Mario Chalmers hit a huge three to give the Heat the lead late vs. Dallas. It was supposed to be his moment. Finally, finally, he would be accepted, respected, celebrated. It would be about him, and his game, his shot. It was not. A blown rotation and an answer from Dallas and the series had shifted for the final time. That was the game where everything ended for Miami, when you look back.
The Heat could have moved on from Chalmers this year, could have opted to go in a different direction. They stuck with the guy they’ve come to know as “little brother.” And in Game 4 vs. Oklahoma City, it paid off. Chalmers scored 25 points on 9-15 shooting and the Heat pulled away for a 104-98 victory, going up 3-1 in the Finals.
In every playoff series, there are what I call “You have to be kidding me” guys. Players who a team’s fans know as guys who can hit big shots, make big plays, who are playing well under the radar. Players who the other team’s fans have no expectation of anything positive from. When they deliver, those fans are left screaming “You have to be kidding me!” as a player they never feared hits big shot after big shot. Shane Battier was that player for three games. In Game 4, it was Mario Chalmers.
What’s maybe even more stunning is that Chalmers did it without just hitting open 3′s on the catch-and-shoot. He was going to the rim. He sped past defenders (including Kevin Durant for much of the game) and hit tough layup after tough layup, hanging the ball on the edge of the rim with enough back spin to slide back in. It wasn’t Dwyane Wade or LeBron James, but they were monster shots all the same.
The burden of being a young, inconsistent point guard finding your way on a team of superstars is you’re constantly being considered in the context of another level. Chalmers is notoriously confident to the point of absurdity. He honestly believes he’s as good as those players, he honestly believes he can change a game, a series, a season. In Game 4, he backed it up. He made smart decisions, and when he didn’t, he made up for it with hustle plays. Twice, Chalmers responded to turnovers with defensive pressure to force the ball back to Miami’s way.
Chalmers has constantly faced being screamed at by James and Wade for any mistake. Overthrow a full-court outlet pass? Criticism. Miss a defensive rotation? Criticism. Turn the ball over? Fail to get the ball to a star in a key spot? Take a bad shot? Constant and consistent verbal abuse. You have to live with the standards. In Game 4, there were none of those words, just glowing support post-game from the superstar big brothers. The kid had done it, he’d pulled his weight, he’d made the shots, he’d won the game.
Little brother has arrived, when Miami needed him most.
- PBT Extra: Previewing Heat/Spurs NBA Finals Game 7 0
- Utah Jazz bring back Jerry Sloan as team consultant 3
- Celtics, Clippers restart Doc Rivers-Kevin Garnett trades talks at Chris Paul’s wish 9
- Chris Bosh to fans who left Game 6 early: ‘Don’t come back for Game 7′ 35
- Wade says left knee sore, swollen, but will play through it 16
- NBA Finals Game 6: Heat comeback in fourth, win in overtime to force Game 7 (125)
- If Spurs win, it is LeBron’s legacy that will take biggest hit (85)
- Lakers unlikely to sign and trade Dwight Howard to the Clippers, Rockets, or anyone else (81)
- Chris Bosh blocks Spurs’ Game 6 comeback attempt (video) (79)
- Heat’s Big Three dominate Game 4 to even the Finals at two games apiece (74)
- LIVE: Bruins-Blackhawks, Game 4
- Posnanski: How Heat won a game of mistakes
- PHT: Can Blackhawks solve Rask in Game 4?
- PFT: Report: Hernandez accused of prior shooting
- CSN: Report: Hernandez 'not ruled out' as suspect
- GTC: Tiger pulls out of AT&T citing elbow issue
- HBT: Biogenesis suspensions still likely coming
- Play Video: Bosh: 'We'll see who hits first'
- Play Video: Clippers, Celtics discussions 'can't be wrong'
- Play Video: Elliot looks ahead to Game 6
- Play Video: The Hype: How much would you pay to punch someone?
- Play Video: If Heat lose, 'all hell will break loose'
- Play Video: Green breaks NBA finals 3-point record