- Series Hub: Heat vs. Spurs
MIAMI — Mario Chalmers has no problem asserting himself on the big stage.
It’s been in his blood since he was a teenager, but it became evident when he was starring in college for Kansas’ national championship team and more so last season, during the Miami Heat’s championship run.
Chalmers went off for 25 points in Game 4 of The Finals last season against the Oklahoma City Thunder, draining nine of his 14 shots en route to a win that helped the Heat move one step closer to closing out the Thunder in Game 5.
That’s why performances like the one he delivered Sunday night at AmericanAirlines should surprise no one. The Heat point guard relishes the opportunity to take and make the big shots, make the big plays and accept the challenge of dealing with a future Hall of Famer like Tony Parker the way he did in the Heat’s 103-84 rout of the San Antonio Spurs in Game 2 of The Finals.
Chalmers led the Heat with a team-high 19 points and helped limit Parker to 13 points and just five assists. His layup and free throw with 3:11 to play in the third quarter was the turning point as the Heat went on a 33-5 run to blow the game open. They went from trailing by a point to coasting by 27 points to tie the series at a 1-1 headed to San Antonio for Games 3, 4 and 5.
Chalmers walked over and told a struggling LeBron James that now was the time.
“I felt like we had them on the ropes at the time,” Chalmers said. “I told them let’s go for the kill.”
James might have had the highlight play on Tiago Splitter and Chris Bosh broke out of his funk and finished with a double double (12 points, 10 rebounds). But it was the Heat’s role players who saved the day. Guys like Ray Allen (13 points), Chris “Birdman” Andersen (nine points) and Mike Miller (nine points) showed up.
And in this series, James is convinced that Chalmers could very well be the Heat’s most critical performer, even with “Big 3s” on both sides.
“‘Rio has to play big for us in all facets,” James said. “I think that especially defensively, he’s guarding arguably the best point guard in the league. But I think he also has to make Tony work on the defensive end. He can’t be passive. He has to shoot his shots when he has them.”
Chalmers won’t bite publicly when asked about an individual matchup like the one he’s locked in with Parker right now, but his history against the other top players at the position suggests otherwise. He’s never backed down.
“It wasn’t nothing about Tony Parker,” Chalmers said. “It was the fact that we lost Game 1.We never want to lose, especially in The Finals. My mindset was just to do what I can for the team and go from there.”
It goes back that intestinal fortitude, the big game moxie that Chalmers has always exhibited.
“Mario’s got guts. Come on,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He had that all the way [back] in college. He’s got incredible confidence in his game. He’s shown that throughout the years, even when it’s sometimes — I wouldn’t say irrational. You have to have guts to play with our guys. If you don’t, you get swallowed up. The good thing about it is the other guys were fine with him making plays. That might be different the next game. As they make adjustments, everybody has to be alive. Him being aggressive helps us, no question.”
There’s no strategy involved. Just plain old guts.
You either have it in you to thrive under pressure or you don’t.
“We have a lot of those guys,” Spoelstra said. “You can’t teach that quality, the big game guts. They feel most alive in these situations when you typically feel the most pressure. Drives me crazy sometimes in December and January. But when you get to this time of year you like it.”