The headlines following Miami’s Game 1 loss to the San Antonio Spurs focus unfairly on the “electric failure” that took place and the impact it had on the players, specifically LeBron James. While “CrampsGate” has dominated the talk in social media, it overlooks several actual facts.
One of these is that the Spurs are actually, y’know, pretty good. They played in the same conditions and found an extra gear as the fourth quarter wound down. An additional truth is that Miami was within four points with just under 3 minutes to play. That’s certainly striking distance for a team that once came back from a 27-point deficit (albeit against the Cleveland Cavaliers) just last season and has orchestrated numerous comebacks during this year’s playoffs.
But while the Spurs thrived as the clock expired, hitting shot after shot, Miami’s defense looked beaten and fatigued and their offense was clunky and lacking the brilliance that has led the Heat to two straight titles.
While assigning fault is pointless, it goes without saying that Miami could have used the services of a player who was confined to the bench during crucial moments of the game. I am not referring to James, however, but rather Mario Chalmers, who only played 17 mostly-useless minutes.
Chalmers, as Heat fans have come to know, is a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in an overly-confident blanket of indifference. He wavers from being engaged and fearless to lost and careless over the course of the same game, maybe even the same quarter. He drives against 7-footers with hardly a care in the world then makes a sloppy pass with only a smaller defender in his way. He gets yelled at and consoled, even when the mistakes are clearly his fault.
During last night’s forgettable performance, cameras caught teammates Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Toney Douglas and Shane Battier all trying to motivate “Rio” at one point or another. It didn’t work but, at least, it speaks to the great camaraderie on this Heat team.
Meanwhile, on a night when heat and fatigue wreaked havoc with Coach Erik Spoelstra bench rotation, Chalmers got in foul trouble early, was subbed out, came in briefly before the end of the first half and promptly picked up his third foul. It’s the kind of lackadaisical play expected from rookies or journeymen, not starting point guards with championship experience. Chalmers picked up two more fouls in the second half, forcing Norris Cole to exhaust his high motor unnecessarily by playing nearly 30 minutes.
With James on the bench and out for the rest of the game, Chalmers – as cocky and confident as can be – was reinserted with a chance to cut a 7-point deficit before the game ended. He did, stepping back and drilling a 3-pointer (his only points of the game) over the outstretched Tim Duncan. Perhaps this would be a “Chalmers Game,” one that would feed the inconsistent legend of a player who has won championships in high school, college and as a professional.
Instead, Rio allowed Tony Parker to screen-and-roll him to death and turned the ball over after over-dribbling himself into a corner and making a casual pass to Ray Allen…that landed near midcourt.
Maybe Chalmers should be thankful for the loss, especially with the absurd focus being put on James’ severe cramping and ludicrous questioning of his durability and “manhood.” The heat (no pun intended) is clearly off the erratic point guard. He’s capable of bouncing back almost instantly, that ridiculous overconfidence propelling him back into the fans’ good graces. And if Game 1 is any indication, he’ll need to in order for Miami to have any chance at all against a team that is too experienced, too good and too motivated.
All the qualities that you might expect from a player like Chalmers but weren’t in evidence during his woeful performance on Thursday night.