MIAMI — He had hit just two of his previous 18 attempts from the field, but none of that seemed to bother Mario Chalmers during Game 4 of the NBA Finals last night in the biggest performance of his career to this point.
“Mario has that thing,” said Dwyane Wade, who has played alongside Chalmers for four seasons– before the Big Three was formed. “That thing called heart, and no matter what, no matter how tough we are on him, he actually thinks he’s the best player on this team, and that’s a gift and a curse.
“But tonight, it was a gift for us because he never gets down on himself, he always believes, ‘Find me, I can make a shot. I can make a play.’ He was huge for us. We don’t win the game tonight without what he did in the fourth quarter making some baskets going to the hole.”
Despite missing his first three shots from the field in Game 4 – all deep 3-pointers – Chalmers came out in the second quarter and attacked the rim for his first bucket of the game plus the foul, and never looked back on his way to 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field to go along with three assists, two rebounds and two steals with just a single turnover.
“I didn’t lose any confidence,” explained Chalmers. “I was just picking my spots better. I think I was rushing my shot, not squaring up to the basket. I watched a little bit of film on my shots, and made the correction.”
Throughout this series for the Heat there have seen significant contributions from guys outside of the Big Three, and despite the inconsistency of those contributions from game to game, they are finding ways to get it done, to grind it out, to win games despite not putting forth their most remarkable effort … and that’s what it’s all about for this team.
As much as the media wants to hype LeBron James, Wade and Chris Bosh, it is both soothing and refreshing to the avid basketball fan to see the way they’ve consistently handled themselves, the way they – sorry for the cliché – just want to win, and don’t really give a hoot how it gets done.
As long as there’s a notch under the ‘W’ column, that’s all that matters to this group.
“That’s the reason we all came here together,” said Wade. “And I’m not just talking about Chris, LeBron and myself. I’m talking about Shane Battier, I’m talking about Mike Miller, I’m talking about all these guys. That’s the reason we all wanted to play together. It’s very hard in this league to win, to win it all. You’ve got to have guys that on any given night, they can carry what you call your own weight, and nights that you’ve got to do it together.
“It’s very important,” Wade continued. “It’s very big. Obviously, LeBron James is one of the most dominant players in the game and he explodes many nights scoring-wise. But we’ve always got his back, and certain nights like tonight when he wasn’t feeling his greatest, you have guys like Mario Chalmers step up, big plays, big moments. That’s what this team is built on, and that’s the reason we’re playing together.”
Ever since he hit that enormous 3-pointer for Kansas in the NCAA National Championship game in the spring of 2008, he has been dubbed ‘Super Mario’ for his innate ability to stay in the moment and calmly knock down big shots.
“I think everybody kind of knew the position he came from in Kansas with his big-time performances there,” Bosh said. “But when we got into the season, he hit some big shots and just, you know, you’ve got to love his mentality. He wants to be the best, and that’s where it starts. He puts in the work all the time, and he truly believes in his talent. It really is contagious. Once you see him, you can’t help but believe in him. We’ve been staying on him because we need him. We knew coming into the season we needed him to be a better point guard, and we all had to get better, and he’s just outlasted a tremendous amount of pressure and he’s responding every time, and that’s what he does.”
“He’s absolutely fearless almost to an unrealistic level,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Chalmers. “But that’s part of the why he’s able to succeed at this level, and if you want to get real specific with it, it’s why he’s able to be the point guard on this team because he has the guts, he has the thick skin to play with veterans who have had a lot of success in this league and he can handle it.”
It’s one thing to be a gutsy player and be willing to take and make big shots. It’s quite another thing, however, to have to adapt to your team’s strengths, and to learn how to be effective off the ball when you’re a point guard.
“You know, Mario, it’s not easy for most people to come in and whatever role they’re supposed to be in, to not have the role,” explained Wade. “A lot of times Mario Chalmers don’t bring the ball up, and he’s the point guard. And then there’s other times we depend on him to do it so much, and we want him to make plays for us. I’m sure it’s confusing at times. He’s out of rhythm a lot, but he’s a big-game kind of player. When he got drafted here, we knew that he was a big game player.”
After scoring 13 of Miami’s 25 fourth-quarter points during the pivotal Game 4, it’s safe to say that Chalmers looked about as calm, cool and collected as a role player could look during an NBA Finals in which he had struggled mightily preceding this singular game.
“It’s just part of your DNA,” said Wade. “You’re just born with it. What it says on his arm, ‘Mr. Clutch”, that clutch gene, you’ve got to be born with it, and he has it.”
An arrogant confidence. Super Mario has it. And it is a quality that any team needs to win big.
Jeremy Bauman is a 2011 graduate of Indiana University and the newest writer for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.