The Miami Heat were begging for a loss in game 2.
Even though they managed to pull out a 115-111 victory that needed an extra five minutes, the Heat shot themselves in the foot on too many occasions. From missing 16 free throws to Dwyane Wade having an awful first half because of the Boston Celtics defensive pressure, the Heat could have easily been down by 20 points going into the half.
Usually that would be a death sentence for a team like the Heat. Without Chris Bosh on the floor, Miami needs LeBron and Dwyane to be at their absolute best at all times in order to fill the 18 point and eight rebound void left behind. If even one of them is struggling, it could end up resulting in a Heat loss since they’re already attempting to compensate for the absence of a key member.
Even though Wade only had two points and LeBron struggled to get anything going in the first half, the Heat still found themselves down by only seven points thanks to the efforts of Mario Chalmers, the guy that is usually seen being yelled at by either of those two.
Chalmers should have been the one getting in the face of Dwyane and LeBron because he’s the reason why the Heat even stood a chance at the end of game 2. His 14 first half points came as a result of the Celtics aggressive defense on the Heat’s dynamic duo, which ended up leaving him open for the majority of his shots.
Mario ended up hitting 3-of-6 from beyond the arc and finished with the most significant 22 points of his career; a considerable improvement after missing all six of his three-pointers and finishing with nine points in game 1.
Perhaps the best part of Chalmers’ game 2 was that he played aggressive. When he wasn’t hitting open jumpers, he was driving into the lane throwing up his patented floater and taking it in for layups. It’s a beautiful thing when Mario starts driving, as it opens up more driving opportunities for Wade and James, while also boosting Mario’s confidence on playing aggressive.
Dwyane and LeBron need all the help they can get this point, which makes guys like Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem integral parts of the game. It’s not just them playing into the Heat’s defensive system so well, but hitting the open shots that they need to hit because of the increased pressure on Wade and James.
Throughout game 2, the Celtics were applying an enormous amount of pressure on James and Wade. Dwyane, specifically, found himself encountering a double-team every time he touched the ball early on. LeBron, too, was constantly met by multiple defenders at the top of the perimeter.
So what happens when two players are attracting the defensive attention of an entire team? Three other Heat players are getting open. That’s what enabled Mario Chalmers to play as well as he did in the first half of game 2; he wasn’t facing pressure on his shots or most of his drives.
Without Bosh, the key to the Heat making this Conference Finals as easy as possible and then making the NBA Finals not result in a travesty is getting the role players involved.
The greatest example of the Heat winning games off the help of their role players was their blowout victory in game 5 of the semifinals. The Heat started off the game by getting it to an open Shane Battier in the corner and watching as he hit the first three points of the game. The first eight points came off of two Battier three’s and a Chalmers jumper.
By getting your role players established early, you send a message to the opposing defense that they will need to do more than simply double-team James and Wade. The defense recognizes that they can’t allow the role players to get into a rhythm early on, so they release some of that pressure off of Wade and James and start to move out towards the perimeter.
The Heat don’t have any role players who can consistently score inside which actually works right into their plan. Since Miami is chock full of shooters, defenders will eventually have to take notice of them, if they’re making their shots, and begin to apply more of their attention and focus to guys like Miller, Chalmers and Battier–who are all extremely capable of getting hot.
Udonis Haslem’s mid-range game is also of definite importance as it opens up the floor within the perimeter. He’s supposed to be the team’s consistent mid-range threat now that Bosh is sidelined. Miami needs him to stretch the floor, attract the attention of the opposing power forward or center, and inevitably open up the lane.
The role players are going to always be open as long as Wade and James are on the floor. By this point, they just have to make their open jumpers, which would come easier if the Heat find ways to get them involved early and often. These players are far too important to the success of this team to be simply relied on as bailout options.