There are only three words that could collectively describe how each and every one of the Miami Heat faithful felt after their team’s Game 5 104-98 victory to move one game closer to an NBA championship:
MARIO. MOTHERBLEEPING. CHALMERS.
June 20th is officially Mario Chalmers day in South Florida. During this time, we will apologize for every ill comment we have made on Chalmers behalf and kindly offer our services for the two Epcot Center’s he has dangling between his legs.
It’s only right considering the abuse and criticism he’s taken from LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and just about everybody else involved in the Miami Heat organization.
The ‘little brother’ has grown up. And he just kicked the Oklahoma City Thunder where it hurts most to the tune of 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting overall and 3-of-9 shooting from deep, including a staggering 12 points in the fourth quarter. None of those 12 bigger than the driving layup he made in the final minute to turn a three-point lead into five.
Perhaps you noticed LeBron James on the bench during that sequence. As much as our fearless leader wanted to serve his daily dose of Vitamin D (the D is for Dick), he was forced to sit out due to severe leg cramps that occurred with six minutes left in the fourth quarter during a tied game.
Of course, not until he left he left one giant footprint on the face of every single critic that has ever doubted or criticized him.
Obviously being limited, James still managed to hobble his way out on the court because if Mike Miller can do it, so can he. With three minutes remaining in a tied game that would either crush the soul of the Heat’s opponent or give them the motivation they need to come back, LeBron James stepped up and converted quite possibly the biggest shot of his prestigious and Hall of Fame worthy career:
It was hero-ball as hero-ball gets and was the type of shot that got the Heat in a lot of trouble in last year’s Finals. However, this time around, it was an entirely different LeBron James that took the shot. A determined and focused LeBron that wasn’t about to allow a leg cramp derail his chances to win an NBA title took that shot with pure confidence because he wanted to make the play.
I’m not going to say it was Willis Reed-esque but it was totally Willis Reed-esque. Instead of inspiring his team by making the first four points of Game 7, James made a key three-pointer in a game that was either going to give the Thunder hope or absolutely shit on their dreams.
It was the spark the Heat needed. Dwyane Wade hit a layup on the next possession and after Russell Westbrook cut it back to three, Mario Chalmers made his driving layup to give the Heat the necessary cushion to secure a victory.
Shane Battier than made another huge play by tipping out a jump-ball, that appeared to be originally won by the Thunder, to Mario Chalmers with 15 seconds remaining in a 101-98 game. Westbrook then unwisely committed an intentional foul on Chalmers, who would step to the line and make both free throws.
ALASKA GOT THE COLDEST WINTERS. FLOATERS RAINING DOWN FROM HELL. DERRICK ROSE KRYPTONITE.
And his game wasn’t even the best part either. The Thunder switched things up at the beginning of the game by placing Kevin Durant on Mario Chalmers, as a way for Durant to keep his energy level up. Instead of having to face off with LeBron James, he’d defend Chalmers, who had struggled significantly until that point.
When asked about it after the game, Chalmers stated:
“Yeah, I took that as a little sign of disrespect. For me, I worked too hard to be in the position I’m in now. Even though my offense wasn’t clicking three games in the series, I wanted to step up for my team, and I was able to do that.”
Of course, it wasn’t easy for the Heat to achieve that Game 5 victory. In fact, all they needed to do was simply complete the biggest comeback in playoff franchise history after going down 33-16 in the first quarter.
It wasn’t a surprise in the slightest that the Thunder came out firing on all cylinders. They’ve been digging themselves out of first quarter holes throughout the series. This time around, they decided to put that youthful energy to good use with a tremendous offensive output in the first with 33 points to the Heat’s 19.
Since this is the bizzaro of NBA Finals, it was another unexpected Heat player that would step up. This time it was Norris Cole, the rookie point guard who had yet to even play a single minute in the Finals, igniting a 16-0 run that brought the Heat right back into it. Cole had two three-pointers and a layup in the span. It also must have woke Chalmers up, because he was having another terrible game up until Cole started doing his job for him.
The Heat answered the Thunder’s 33-19 first quarter with a 27-16 second quarter to make this a game again. Once the second half started, LeBron James, who finished with 28 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds, and Dwyane Wade, finishing with 25 points, five boards and three assists, began to take over, while the Thunder couldn’t get anything from anyone other than Westbrook, who beasted with 43 points.
You can hate Westbrook’s attitude all you want, but the guy is a freak of nature. Nobody could stop him last night. When he’s hitting mid-range jumpers and playing with an aggressive mentality like he was Tuesday night, he’s just as good as any other guard in this league. He finished with 43 points on 32 shots and will still be criticized.
Kevin Durant finished with 28 points on 19 shots, but the fact that he only recorded three assists and two rebounds, as well as being Mario Chalmers’ defender most of the night, makes an otherwise average night look incredibly hollow. For the second consecutive game, he became a quiet player in the fourth as it was Russell who took over.
Speaking of which, Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka have been eerily quiet as well. These two were projected to be deciding factors this series, yet they both played less than 28 minutes with the team electing to go small with the Heat’s lineup. With no resistance at the rim, the Heat are being granted the right to take it to the rim with little deterrence.
They haven’t been too quiet off the court, however, as Perkins took a shot at his coach, Scott Brooks:
“I just don’t understand why we start out the first quarter the way we did, with the lineup that we had, and all of a sudden we change and adjust to what they had going on. So they won the last three quarters, and that’s what happened. So you’re talking about the group that went out there and got the 17-point lead wasn’t out there long enough? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
This series is essentially over with history telling a 30-0 story of team’s who have gone up 3-1 in the NBA Finals, but it is truly over if there is any sort of tension between a starter and his coach.
Taking it to the rim has been the key all series for the Heat. This team is making a conscious effort to either get a shot right next to the rim or a wide-open jumper. The Thunder have done a good job at packing the paint and limiting the Heat’s drives, but they’re putting up zero resistance against LeBron in the post.
James in the post set the tone throughout the second and third quarters. If he wasn’t scoring over smaller defenders in Thabo Sefolosha and James Harden, he was attracting double teams and kicking it out to open shooters, who have actually been making their shots at a substantial rate this series.
The Heat shot 10-of-26 from deep in Game 5; Chalmers finished with three, Wade and Cole each had two, and James, Battier, and James Jones all had one.
Chris Bosh had another decent game with 13 points and nine rebounds. He’s not even looking to create his own shot when the ball is in his hands, but he’s making up for it in a big way on the defensive end. Seriously, that sentence wasn’t a joke; Bosh is playing HUGE on defense.
Also, credit goes out to coach Erik Spoelstra. He’s taking just as much abuse as anyone else on this team, but he has coached circles around Scott Brooks, a former Coach of the Year. His lineups and rotations have been spectacular, and putting Norris Cole in the game when the team needed a spark? Genius. The Thunder were flabbergasted upon seeing that.
It truly is a beautiful thing to see everything come together. For months of wondering whether or not this team had the supporting cast to lift them up when James, Wade and Bosh needed them most, they’re coming through in the biggest of ways. Whether it’s Shane Battier one night or Chalmers another night, all the Heat need is their big three to play their game and one role player to have a quality game.
It’s been the difference the first four games of this series. The Thunder are struggling to get any sort of consistency from anyone outside of Durant and Westbrook, while the Heat are getting significant contributions from guys like Battier, Chalmers and Cole. Once again, that’s the type of stuff that was so sorely missed last year.
But it’s happening this year and we, as Heat fans, couldn’t be any prouder to see our little brother growing up before our very eyes.
The Heat are now one win away from securing their second championship in franchise history. The 2006 title was awesome, considering it gave Wade, Alonzo Mourning and Gary Payton a ring, but it’s going to pale in comparison if the Heat can win one of the next three games. The significance of a 2012 NBA championship is going to open the floodgates for the Heat.
What happens if the Heat win this title? Silence. Peaceful silence from each and every last neanderthal that cooked up the thought of this team not having the talent or drive to win a title. The heartwarming satisfaction of seeing your team win a championship that they have so clearly striven for throughout the season.
Most of all? LeBron James getting that ring. It’s going to put a cork on so many mouths across the country, that people will have to continue talking out of their ass to attempt to make a point. The King finally getting his crown after nine years worth of frustration, disappointment and uncertainty will be a joyous occasion for all who matter.
And for those who will still have something to say?
Tough shit. Kiss the ring.
Ball-crushing stats of the night:
- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers are the first teammates to each score 25 points or more in an NBA Finals game since a little trio by the names of Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it in 1985.
- According to ESPNStatsInfo on Twitter, LeBron James scored or assisted on 55 of Miami’s 104 points. He’s the first player with 26 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds in a Finals since Larry Bird in 1986.
- LeBron James is a man amongst boys. It’s not a stat, but I felt like it was worth saying again.