SAN ANTONIO – Lost in the shadow of LeBron James’ limp to the Heat bench with cramps late in the fourth quarter was the sight of Mario Chalmers virtually chaining himself to the bench for most Game 1 due to foul trouble.
Miami’s starting point guard had three fouls by halftime and picked up his fifth on a charging call just 35 seconds into the final period. As a result, Chalmers played just 17 minutes on the night and was hardly a factor at all, finishing with only three points and five turnovers to just one assist.
“That hurt last night, 17 minutes,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said on Friday. We were managing the minutes the best that we could and getting guys in and out, played nine guys and nobody played deep minutes, but those extra 15 or 16 minutes from Rio probably would have helped.”
There was a time in the second half when teammate Chris Bosh could be seen clamping a headlock on Chalmers and pulling him close and several other teammates were offering, well, loud words of advice.
“Yeah, he was trying to keep me in the game,” Chalmers said. “I was frustrated with it being the first (game). He could see I was trying to get a little frustrated with it being the first game, Game 1 of the Finals and being in foul trouble and not be able to help my team. I was getting a little frustrated. He was just trying to keep me in the game.
“They weren’t yelling at me, they was just trying to encourage me. Everybody knew I was frustrated with the foul trouble I got into early, and when I got back into the game, I was trying to press as much as I could. And I was trying to get back the minutes I wasn’t playing and I was just trying to make something happen.”
Chalmers has been picking up fouls at a faster rate than normal over the past month of the playoffs. He’s had at least four fouls in three of his last nine games and it has had an effect on his play.
“Just gotta be careful with my touch fouls,” Chalmers said. “I get a lot of touch fouls and I got to figure out a way to adjust.”
“He needs to be more attentive to technique and earlier in his thought process,” Spoelstra said. “Things are happening very quickly obviously at this level of competition and your preparation before the play happens is paramount.
“Now, Rio is very important to our success. He understands that and I believe he will be better with the next game.”