- Series hub: Heat vs. Spurs
MIAMI – “Reports of my demise were premature. That’s my opening statement.”
Coming into the 2013 NBA Finals, if you had to choose a member of the Heat most likely to reference Mark Twain to lead off a postgame press conference, brainy Duke alum Shane Battier probably would have been the choice.
But if you were looking for the Heat player to shatter the NBA Finals record for most 3-pointers made in a Game 7, at least after his Eastern Conference finals showing, it almost surely wouldn’t have been Shane Battier.
Battier’s value to the Heat throughout the regular season was found mostly in his defense, particularly drawing charges, and in stretching defenses by draining 3s. He shot 316 treys in the regular season and knocked them in at a 43 percent clip, good for sixth in the NBA among qualifiers. But during the first two rounds of the playoffs, as Miami dispatched Milwaukee and Chicago, Battier went 12-for-46 (26 percent). In the Eastern Conference finals against the Pacers, Battier’s minutes shrank as he fell out of the rotation, and he made just two 3s in the entire series.
At the time, Battier handled questions about his reduced role with a somewhat poetic turn of phrase, noting, “Sometimes you’ve got to eat a turd sandwich. Makes the ribeye taste better next time.”
But as the NBA Finals progressed against the Spurs, Battier’s role increased almost game by game. In Game 5, he notched a then-series high 17 minutes, making two 3-pointers. In Game 6, with the Heat fighting to stay alive, Battier had his biggest game yet, hitting three treys in a dozen minutes, including one that banked in off the glass.
“I believe in basketball gods,” Battier explained. “I felt that they owed me big time. I had a bunch of shots in San Antonio that went in and out. So when that banker went in, I said, ‘You know what? They owe me.’ But it was the start of a pretty good streak there.”
Was it ever. Battier came off the bench early in Game 7 and ended up scoring 18 points in 28 minutes, hitting 6-for-8 from three-point land and setting an NBA record for most triples made in an NBA Finals Game 7.
“Honestly, I felt good the last couple of games. And I made a couple of threes last game, and so I felt really confident tonight. I think that our starters were going to be pretty tired after Game 6 — it was an emotionally and physically draining game. I only played 12 minutes. So I felt great.”
If his offensive contributions weren’t enough, with just under a minute to play and the Heat up only two, Battier got caught defending Tim Duncan in transition, and had to guard him solo in the post. Duncan went to a running hook that missed, and then got his hands on the rebound but couldn’t convert, with Battier battling him the entire time.
“I’m 215 pounds, 6’8”,” Battier noted. “I’m obviously giving up major weight and height to Duncan. So I was just praying that he missed it. To be honest with you, I don’t think I affected the shot that much. I was just trying to make his shoot over the top. And that’s a shot Tim Duncan usually makes eight out of 10 times. For whatever reason, that shot didn’t drop right then. I’m very thankful. It wasn’t because of my defense. Just missed it.”
Battier may have tried to downplay his contributions, at least defensively, but his Heat teammates weren’t having it. Dwyane Wade called Battier “one of my favorite teammates of all time,” and Wade couldn’t minimize Battier’s offensive show.
“Shane ain’t hit a shot since … I don’t know when,” said Wade. “But tonight, he was unconscious. And he’s just a big-time player. You want that for Shane so bad. You wanted to see those shots go in for him because of everything he stands for.”
Most of the Heat’s important long-range marksmen couldn’t find the range Thursday night — Mike Miller, Ray Allen and Mario Chalmers were a combined 1-for-13 on 3-pointers. But in the end it didn’t matter, as Battier seemed like he couldn’t miss. And now, with his second NBA title in hand, he’s ready to trade in that sandwich for a steak.
“Tomorrow I hope my wife cooks me a nice ribeye,” Battier said. “I’m looking forward to my ribeye tomorrow.”