DALLAS — There’s been no in-between with Mario Chalmers and this championship series. He’s either hitting the target, or he is the target.
One minute, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are ripping him a new earhole for something he either did or did not do. The next minute, they’re giving him props for dropping an unexpected basket on the Mavericks and turning into a semi-hero.
Bottom line: Chalmers has been big in the two Miami wins and also emerging as the X-factor of a series that hasn’t seen many decisive shots by anyone other than the Big Three and Dirk Nowitzki.
He hit four 3-pointers in Game 3, taking those shots without hesitation. That’s the beauty of Chalmers: He isn’t shy about stepping up, which is exactly the kind of mentality you’d expect from a player who hit a shot to win an NCAA championship.
But he’s not in Kansas anymore; rather on a team with three All-Stars whose standards are high. And that’s why they’ll jump on Chalmers whenever he makes an error in judgment, which is often.
“They’re just telling me things I need to do better,” said Chalmers, who insists he doesn’t take their criticism personally. “It’s not like they’re trying to show me up. It’s part of being teammates, them telling me what I’m doing wrong.”
Um, but do you give it back to them when they screw up?
“Well,” he said. He didn’t finish the answer.
Chalmers should’ve been the hero of Game 2 when LeBron found him wide open in the corner for a 3-pointer that tied the score, but then Dirk’s finger roll with three seconds left nixed that. Otherwise, Chalmers’ long-distance shooting has hurt Dallas, in Games 1 and 3.
“I don’t think I give instant offense off the bench,” he said. “More like energy.”
All Miami needs is someone outside of the Big Three to chip in with 12 or 14 points or a handful of rebounds, and victory is all but certain. Mainly, that player has been Chalmers, with 12 points off the bench in the two wins.
“He’s making shots,” said the Mavericks’ Jason Terry. “The shots you give him, he’s making them, and so you’ve got to give him his due.”
When he’s late on his defensive rotations or plays passively, he gets something else. LeBron and/or Wade will scold Chalmers, but give the guy credit for being able to take it, and also for not allowing it to affect him the next trip downcourt.
“I don’t feel any pressure with those guys on the court,” Chalmers said. “They know I’m going to shoot when open. They know I’ll give my best, even if I do something wrong.”
The more Chalmers knocks down open shots, the more the Mavericks must pay him respect and give a little less to LeBron and Wade and Chris Bosh. Chalmers, therefore, plays a major role in opening the floor, spreading the defense thin and giving Miami yet another option. As if the Heat don’t have enough.
“I feel like I’ve been a clutch shooter going back to my high school and college days,” he said. “Since I was a kid, I wanted to be a player in that situation. So far it’s worked out well for me.”