Mario Chalmers, who dropped 25 points on 15 shots, was the unanimous recipient of the Game 4 game ball in today’s 5-on-5 discussion. He even earned a trip to the post game presser, his first “podium game” of the postseason.
So whom did Chalmers light up?
Well ... no one, sort of.
Chalmers played a great game, but he was hardly the focus of the Thunder’s defense. And with good reason, writes Heat Index’s Tom Haberstroh:
He entered Game 4 missing 13 of his last 15 shots, prompting the Thunder to make a subtle adjustment, but one that Chalmers took personally as an insult. The Thunder’s move? Save Kevin Durant from foul trouble by hiding him on Chalmers.
“Yeah, I took that as a little sign of disrespect,” Chalmers said. “Even though my offense wasn’t clicking three games in the series, I wanted to step up for my team.”
If you look at every single one of Chalmers’ shot attempts, it’s easy to spot the pattern. Every one of his nine 3-point attempts was pretty much uncontested, and every single drive was against a late or over-eager closeout from a Thunder player.
Basically, Chalmers would find space on the perimeter as the Thunder keyed in on Wade or James, then keep adjusting his position to make himself easy to find.
Chalmers knew he would be left alone, and what’s more is he knew what he would do with the ball before it got to him. For better or worse, there is no hesitation in Chalmers’ game. He’s the kind of role player who is way more likely to make a mistake by trying to do too much rather than miss an opportunity by being too passive.
In Game 4 he made perfect shot/drive reads and often started his move to the basket as the ball was still on its way, blowing past defenders like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant not because he is physically quicker, but because Chalmers knew he would be attacking the rim before his out-of-position defenders did.
That extra step is the blessing and burden of playing alongside the kind of talent at the top of the Heat roster.
Some players thrive in such situations.
Derek Fisher may be the ultimate example of a player who has made a career of knowing how to read a closeout and either pull the trigger or scoot by for an unlikely drive to the rim.
Others, like Thabo Sefolosha, never look quite ready to do anything more than shoot or pass.
On Tuesday, Chalmers was ready to take what the defense, and his star teammates, gave him -- and what they gave him were high percentage scoring opportunities.