Since the Miami Heat defeated the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, Mario Chalmers seemed like the obvious choice to be the defining factor for the Miami Heat, not named James, Wade or Bosh, to win the 2012 NBA Finals.
The first two games of the series have proven me wrong as Shane Battier has been a major contributor.
In Game 1 Battier scored 17 points off 6-of-9 from the field and 4-of-6 from the three-point line, grabbed four rebounds and had a steal in 42 minutes of play. Even with his efforts — third leading scorer on the team behind LeBron James’ 30 points and Dwyane Wade’s 19 — the Heat still lost, almost embarrassed, 105-94.
Battier, who I thought would disappear the second time around, again scored 17 points off of 6-of-8 shooting from the field and 5-of-7 from the three-point line.
In blatant terms, the 11-year NBA player has come to play in attempts to secure his first NBA Championship. Let’s face it, when you’re used to playing for teams such as the Houston Rockets and the Memphis Grizzlies, who have had little to no chanceof winning a championship, but then move on to a team who was favored to get to the finals out of the east, a veteran realizes what he has to do to win.
Battier is obviously doing so.
He isn’t creating shots. He isn’t crashing boards. He isn’t distributing to others for open shots of their own.
What he is doing is presenting James, Wade, Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers with an outside scoring option. He’s not just an option, but one the Oklahoma City Thunder’s defense wasn’t anticipating. Instead of Miami settling on an isolation play or a two man game, which the Thunder are ready for, the Heat have been able to move the ball and find Battier wide open or with at least enough time to hoist up a shot.
OKC wasn’t scouting Battier to score 17 points a game because he is well known throughout the league and the outside basketball world as a defensive stopper, not an automatic long-range sniper. Serge Ibaka, a first team All-NBA selection, was guarding Battier until the Thunder realized the Heat forward was taking him outside instead of having him in the paint where he can do damage with blocked shots.
Miami was able to attack the inside because Ibaka wasn’t there; more kudos to Battier.
Also, Battier hasn’t only been knocking down spot up jumpers but has been locking down OKC’s offensive weapons on the other end of the floor.
In Game 1 he was Kevin Durant, who is a tough defensive match up for anyone. He also guarded James Harden who only scored 5 points and Ibaka who only put in 10, with six of them coming in the last two minutes of the second quarter. Ibaka or Harden were hardly a factor in the Thunder’s win.
With the numbers Battier is putting up offensively and his defensive efforts, it only makes sense to call him the new X-factor for the Heat.
Chalmers has played well by creating movement for the Heat’s offense, which can become stagnant, and has also been a solid help defender since Thabo Sefolosha is a relative offensive liability for the Thunder.
On the other hand, his Game 2 efforts of three points on 1-7 shooting from the field and one assist are not X-factor material at all. Also, Chalmers is not guarding the opposing point guard, Russell Westbrook, because he is faster and stronger while Battier is guarding two of the three best scorers OKC has to offer.
If Battier continues to hit his open looks and be the extra scoring option the Heat so desperately need, the match up between the Thunder and the Heat will become that much more even. The only reason the Thunder were favored over the Heat was because of its explosive, multi-option offense.
With Battier, the Heat also have an explosive, multi-option offense.