With the Pacers’ Roy Hibbert at 7-2 looming at the end of the lane like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the top floor in Game of Death, the Heat once again hesitated to attack the rim. They hesitated, pulled up, kicked out in the face of the Hibbert monster.
All except Mario Chalmers. The Heat’s point guard stands only 6-2, but he’s a bottomless pit of confidence who went at Hibbert with impudence throughout the Heat’s 90-79 Game 5 win Thursday night.
“We needed it,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Starting last series [the five-game second-round against Chicago], our point guards have been progressively more aggressive. Mario’s a gamer, as we know. We’re going to need another one.”
In fact, other than LeBron James, Chalmers represented the only game-long consistency for the Heat. He had 12 points on five of 12 shooting, six assists and only one turnover, a blown pitch on the run in an attempt to launch a fast break.
Chalmers’ play stood in glaring contrast to Indiana point guard George Hill: one point, 0 for 4 from the field, four assists, three turnovers.
Chalmers actually led the Heat in field-goal attempts (six), field goals made (three) and points (seven) while playing all 12 minutes of the first quarter. Of the Heat’s six shots around the bucket, Chalmers took three. Before his three-pointer, Chalmers scored on two driving layups despite the presence of Hibbert.
When the Heat made its move in the third quarter, James took the point with 16 points, four rebounds and four assists. Chalmers, working in James slipstream, picked up three assists and hit his only shot, a three-pointer off a James assist, that gave the Heat its first lead since the first quarter, 56-53, with 4:27 left in the third.
Chalmers followed up by forcing a turnover from D.J. Augustin. Later, he wormed in among the big men, grabbed a rebound of a Pacers miss and, with momentum taking him out of bounds, bounced it off Indiana forward David West. The next possession ended with a Udonis Haslem jumper from Chalmers and a 63-55 Heat lead.
Chalmers and backup Norris Cole both drove the lane, with or without Hibbert. Both officially list at 6-2, which means both have spent their basketball lives taking on the trees. Hibbert’s just a bigger version of what they’ve dealt with for years.
The Pacers’ big guy who did the most damage to Chalmers might have been 6-9 Tyler Hansbrough. Chalmers hit that first-quarter three-pointer after Hansbrough sent him to the ground on one of Chalmers’ trips into the paint.
Chalmers came up slowly, with his right hand or shoulder appearing hurt. He hadn’t made it back up the floor yet when Dwyane Wade stole the ball from Sam Young, thus putting him in perfect position for a cherry-picker three-pointer.