The Miami Heat began a a six-game road trip of the Atlantic Coast on the wrong foot with a 102-92 loss to the New York Knicks. Despite 32 points from LeBron James and 23 from Dwyane Wade, the defending champions were unable to overcome the absences of Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier.
Both players are doubtful again as Miami takes a short trip across the bridge to face the Brooklyn Nets Friday night. That is bad news for the Heat, who truly need Chalmers to succeed. It is easy for a player like Chalmers to get lost behind names like James, Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen, so on and so forth, but he is such a crucial piece to the puzzle.
This season, Chalmers is averaging 9.3 points, 5.1 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game. The scrappy guard is also averaging 1.9 steals, tied for the team lead with Wade. Chalmers also offers the ability to shoot the three-pointer and drive to the hoop. Norris Cole and Chalmers are very similar players, but Chalmers provides more experience and better decision-making. Cole has shown signs of being an adequate point guard capable of starting, and he will only get better with experience.
Right now Cole is a great backup to Chalmers, but take Chalmers out of the rotation and Erik Spoelstra is only left with one true point guard. The combination of Cole and Chalmers works great, and Thursday night’s loss to the Knicks proved how important Chalmers is. Without him the depth of Miami is severely hurt. This six-game road trip could be much tougher than expected if Chalmers continues to miss games with Achilles tendinitis. Miami will need a healthy Chalmers if they hope to win a third consecutive NBA title.