COMMENTARY | If the Miami Heat are going to find a way to get back into the NBA Finals, it's going to have to be by the element of surprise.
For the Heat to win in San Antonio and send the series back to Miami, they need their under-the-radar faces to come through. With Spurs guard Tony Parker's hamstring injury putting his status and productivity in question, the Heat need someone other than LeBron James or Dwyane Wade to step up. Be it Mario Chalmers, whose play in Game 2 could use another duplication, or Norris Cole, whose fearlessness has been refreshing and entertaining to witness, somebody other than Miami's Big Three needs to elevate their game.
Cole has no conscience, what with his propensity to drive to the hole and find a way to score, regardless of how many black and silver jerseys are in the paint. His minutes increased from just over 17 minutes in Game 1 to 26-plus in Game 3. If Parker is hobbled, whether he plays zero minutes or 40, Cole's contributions are critical. It's do-or-die time now with a no-tomorrow mentality on Miami's minds. Cole's unconscious play may be just what the Heat need.
If Parker plays, Cole's relentless attacking style could be dangerous. For one, his quickness will test Parker's mobility and vulnerability. Secondly, his penetration could draw double teams, which would free up open shots for Miami's perimeter shooters. Thirdly, his ability to blow by defenders and draw contact may get the Spurs big men into foul trouble.
If it's not Cole, someone from the Heat's role-player cast of characters has to deliver. Just as San Antonio's Danny Green and Gary Neal were catalysts in the Spurs' Game 3 rout, Miami is in need of an unsung hero. Maybe it's Ray Allen, as difficult as it is to consider the best shooter in NBA postseason history an unsung hero. Allen was 6 of 9 from long range in the first two games, but he didn't attempt a three-pointer in Game 3. Allen putting up a bagel is a trend that can't continue.
Maybe it's Mike Miller, whose hot hand from beyond the arc has been remarkable. Miller, who is 9 of 10 from three-point range in the series, hasn't missed a triple in the last two games. And everyone remembers how special he was in last year's Finals-clinching win over the Oklahoma City Thunder when he knocked down seven threes. As they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Right now, Miller is far from needing repair.
Miami's Shane Battier has been non-existent in the Finals. Actually, the Indiana Pacers took him out of the Eastern Conference Finals, too. But in the first three games of this series, Battier made only one field goal while grabbing just five rebounds. With that type of production, it's no surprise he's seen the floor just over six minutes a game. If nothing else, Miami needs Battier's defense to make a statement.
Back-to-back blowouts in this series have taught us this: both Miami and San Antonio have the capability of being really good and really bad in a matter of 48 hours. James says he will be better after a dreadful Game 3 he and the Heat would rather forget. Meanwhile, those in San Antonio - a town which savors the idea of remembering history (i.e. the Alamo) - will certainly be in full-throttle mode in an attempt to end this series in Texas.
Yes, the Heat have a history of bouncing back from a loss. Something suggests if they're going to do it again, it will come from where it's least expected.
Jim McCurdy is a freelance sports writer based in Miami. He has written for major publications around the country. Follow him on Twitter at @irishcurds.
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