The Miami Heat pulled out a win in Game 2 of the 2014 NBA Finals, evening their series with the San Antonio Spurs 1-1. Now the series shifts to Miami where the Heat will look to capitalize on their perfect home-court record this postseason and take command of the series. In order to do so, the Heat will need several of their role players to drastically improve their play. Outside of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Rashard Lewis, no Heat player has put together a strong start to the Finals. Two players who have been noticeably ineffective are Heat point guards Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole.
The pair is averaging a combined five points per game thus far in the Finals. This total is particularly problematic because of the open looks each has been getting. San Antonio has been packing the paint with bodies when James or Dwyane Wade has the ball. As a result, Miami’s shooters have more open looks from the outside. Chalmers and Cole have been unable to capitalize on these looks, shooting a combined 1-of-6 from beyond the arc in the series. Until Chalmers and Cole can make the Spurs pay for leaving them open, San Antonio will continue to clog the lane.
The point guard tandem has also turned the ball over an average of 4.5 times per game. This total is troubling when considering that James, Wade and even Ray Allen are frequently the primary ball-handler in Miami’s offense.
Defensively, neither Chalmers nor Cole has been effective. San Antonio guard Tony Parker has shredded Miami’s defense, averaging 20 points and 7.5 assists in the first two games. Chalmers has looked particularly bad against the Spurs’ star. Parker’s pick-and-roll game has Chalmers in constant chase-mode. Moreover, Parker’s off-ball movement has caught Chalmers sleeping on several occasions, freeing him for wide-open three-point looks.
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra has tried to use Cole on Manu Ginobili for stretches, hoping it would produce similar results to when he matched Cole against Lance Stephenson in the Eastern Conference Finals. It has not. Ginobili is killing the Heat, scoring 17.5 points and dishing out 7.5 assists per game. Cole’s aggressive style has been unable to throw the savvy veteran off his game.
Chalmers and Cole have proven in the past they can be solid role players. When they hit their outside shots and play quality defense, the Heat are nearly unbeatable. With the series coming to Miami, it would not be surprise to see both start to play more relaxed, as role players typically play much better at home than on the road in big games. However, if Chalmers and Cole cannot settle into a groove, watch for the Heat to turn to a point guard-less lineup for long stretches of play for the remainder of the Finals.