Chalmers passing the test
Heat point guard shows confidence
MIAMI - With the Heat last season, Mario Chalmers’s role was basically, “Just don’t mess this up, kid.’’ On a team with three All-Stars that was expected to compete for championships, Chalmers became the de facto point guard when team president Pat Riley couldn’t find an upgrade.
Slowly and methodically, Chalmers has gone from a mistake-ridden player to one with the confidence to facilitate offense for his more heralded teammates and contribute to victories.
On Tuesday night, he had 25 points in a 104-98 victory over the Thunder that gave the Heat the lead in the Finals, three games to one.
Chalmers scored 5 key points down the stretch when LeBron James was on the bench with leg cramps.
Earlier in the series, he had been berated for his defensive mistakes by James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, but he said his confidence is unshakable, especially after his tying 3-pointer in the NCAA championship game with Kansas in 2008.
“I’ve been here before and I know what to expect,’’ he said Wednesday. “I love the big moment like that. Any time I can put my team ahead or take the last shot, I’m willing to do that.
“It’s something that you’re born with, you know, being from Alaska. Everybody counts that guy out, so for me it’s going to the end to prove people wrong.
“When I first got there, they were like, ‘Yeah, OK,’ not really believing it, but now that I have proved myself the last four years, my teammates got a lot of trust in me.’’
Chalmers said he told Wade to feed him the ball in the final minute, and he responded by making a twisting layup for a 5-point lead.
“Well, Mario is a special breed,’’ said Wade. “I joked around yesterday, I said, ‘Mario probably thinks he’s the best player on this team.’ He probably does. He really thinks that.
“And even though he was struggling offensively [before Game 4], he was actually doing some very great things defensively for our team.
“I think yesterday what we did, we tried to pour that confidence into him in shootaround and let him know, ‘Listen, you’re doing good things. This is where you could do a couple things better, but we’re not in this position without you.’
“I think it gave him some more confidence that coach [Erik Spoelstra] gave him some freedom to attack, and he had a hell of a game. Without Mario’s performance, today is a different day.’’
More from Perkins
About 14 hours after Kendrick Perkins said the Thunder should have kept their first-quarter rotation - the one that built a 16-point lead - and not reacted to Miami’s moves, the Oklahoma City center tried to clarify that comment so it wouldn’t be taken as a knock at coach Scott Brooks.
As he was with the Celtics, Perkins is brutally honest, even it means criticizing himself, his teammates, or even his coaches.
“Nah, that wasn’t what I was trying to say,’’ he said Wednesday. “I was making clear at the time that we had a good adjustment to what we was doing, but when you are in the flow of the game or in the heat of the battle, guys are out there playing hard.
“A couple of box-outs here or a couple of loose balls there, we end up winning the game. So it was nothing directed at Coach Brooks or nothing of that nature. I roll with Coach Brooks all day. It wasn’t nothing directed at him.’’
Once again, Perkins questioned his team’s execution down the stretch. Oklahoma City has led in the fourth quarter the last two games, only to melt down the stretch.
“Right now it’s not about X’s and O’s, it’s about who wants it the most,’’ said Perkins, “and who’s going to go out there and get it. We gotta come out there and do it.
“When you go back and watch the film, they just kind of want it more than what we’ve been wanting it.’’
Asked what he meant about the Heat “wanting it more,’’ Perkins said, “They’re getting all the [loose] balls in the fourth quarter and they’re making plays in the fourth quarter. We’re kind of sitting back and waiting for each other - ‘OK, well, you take over’ - instead of just going and getting.
“Starting from me and everybody else, we’re not doing a great job of going and [getting] the game.’’