MIAMI – The Miami Heat can thank Norris Cole and the whiff of raw competition for cranking up the energy and jump starting their comeback from a 17-point early deficit against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 4 of The Finals last night.
Without a mercurial seven minutes and 53 seconds from the high-top fade-wearing Cole, Mario Chalmers might not have gone on to tie his career-playoff high of 25 points or drain those 12 fourth quarter points to help the Heat hold off the Thunder.
Chalmers might not have felt the internal pressure to raise his game to another level without the contributions of Cole, a rookie point guard thought by many to be Chalmers’ possible replacement this season.
When he entered the game for Dwyane Wade with 2:59 to play in the first quarter, the Heat trailed by 13. When Shane Battier replaced him with 8:30 to play in the second quarter, the Thunder lead was just two points and the Heat had already completed their soul-crushing comeback.
Eight points — a driving layup and back-to-back huge 3-pointers, the first with 3.1 seconds left in the first quarter to ignite the crowd — from Cole forced Chalmers to answer that internal challenge. It also put LeBron James in play-maker mode and sparked his aggressive nature on offense.
As much praise as was heaped upon Chalmers after the game, Cole deserves his fair share for his work as well. Fellow Heat reserve James Jones handled that after the game in the Heat locker room when he called Cole the “man of the hour.”