There was 5.2 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and Ray Allen had just finished sending the world into chaos.
When he hit that shot – THE Shot – everything started anew. It was a reset button. The Miami Heat had new life, a new opportunity, to win Game 6. History has shown that they would win that game, followed by Game 7, to win the Finals and the claim their second championship in as many years.
All because Ray Allen hit The Shot.
As many know, Allen works tirelessly at his craft. Because of that work, he’s a career 40% shooter from downtown. It’s his ability to hit 3-pointers that made him an important asset for the Heat. That’s his role on this team.
That’s what the Miami Heat have surrounding LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh: Players that have a role on this team, and each can be important when the time comes.
When the NBA Finals begin on Thursday night, one of the spotlights will shine on the much maligned Heat supporting cast, as perception is that anyone beyond The Big Three isn’t to be relied upon. The core of this team have led the Heat to 4 consecutive NBA Finals appearances, and 2 NBA Championships. But they’ve had help along the way. Now that help will be an important part of their goal to win their third consecutive championship.
To question the Heat’s depth is just being uninformed. No, they don’t have a Reggie Jackson or Manu Ginobili, creators that can come off the bench. They just have role players. The role players are tasked with offering support to the Big Three, whether it be by spreading the floor or being plugged in to provide defensive effort.
Mario Chalmers is the greatest player ever to be named “Mario Chalmers”. I’m sure if you sat down and spoke to Chalmers about world events, his beating Derrick Rose in the NCAA National Title game would somehow be brought up. He’s somebody that drives fans (and teammates) crazy with his decision making, but he’s someone that doesn’t shy away when he has to shoot from beyond the arc (39% in 2013-14).
Norris Cole has turned into a rabid pit bull on the perimeter, using his quickness to keep guards in front of him and forcing them to force the ball where they don’t want it to go. Granted it’s one thing when you’re guarding Lance Stephenson, it’s another thing when you’re going to get asked to check Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. He’s also improved his outside shot, shooting 42% for the playoffs.
Chris Andersen has evolved from being “Birdman” to “Birdzilla” over the course of the season, and he proves that by being a monster in the paint. His shot-blocking has been vital when Miami goes to a conventional center lineup. Offensively, he cleans up the mess with put-back dunks, pick-and-rolls, and drive-and-dishes.
Rashard Lewis has had a mini-renaissance in the past couple of weeks, coming in and being a physical presence on the Pacers’ David West by making him work for position. But Lewis’ calling card has always been his ability to extend a defense by shooting the three (39% for his career) and will make Spurs coach Gregg Popovich have to think whether he’s going to use Tiago Splitter alongside Tim Duncan when Lewis and Bosh are on the floor together.
Shane Battier has been a niche player in this year’s playoffs, but can have his timely moments with his 3-point shooting and can still be a nuisance on defense. Same for Udonis Haslem, the Heat’s enforcer, as he sees time as someone who can muscle-up with big guys and do some of the dirty work. Maybe you’ll even see James Jones, Greg Oden, Toney Douglas, and even Michael Beasley, if the situation warrants it.
The Heat’s role players won’t individually put up 18-20 points every night, but they do a lot of the little things that help the Heat get the job done. That’s the beauty of the Heat’s rotation, it has moving parts that are designed to fit the machine. And for this machine to work, everyone is going to have to contribute in their own ways. Miami’s defense, when engaged, moves on a string, with everyone knowing what rotations need to be made, forcing turnovers, and making life difficult for opposing offenses. You don’t think they’ll be engaged for the next two weeks?
That’s how the Miami Heat have made it this far.
The voyage to a dynasty will need all hands on deck.