The Heat game plan for Game 2 was simple: wear down Tony Parker.
Mario Chalmers heard the message loud and clear, as the fifth-year pro kept Parker busy on defense by being more aggressive because the best way to slow down a great scorer is to make him play defense. Chalmers drove to the basket every chance he got and ran Parker through a myriad of screens.
Parker got knocked down a few times and one time grabbed his side after taking a hard screen from LeBron James. The hard screens began to take its toll in the second half. After a scintillating 21-point Game 1 with no turnovers, Parker was limited to 13 points on 5-of-14 from the field and committed five turnovers in Game 2, and even tossed up an air ball.
“We tried to give him different looks and not have him get comfortable,” said Chalmers, who along with Norris Cole forced Parker into tougher shots all game and never allowed him to get rolling like he did in Game 1.
“My main focus is to stop Tony Parker,” Chalmers said. “That’s my job. That’s the key to the game. If the offense keeps going for me, then I’m going to take it when it comes.”
Chalmers, who has a career average of 8.6 points per game, led the Heat with 19 points and was 6-for-12 from the field Sunday night — a night when the Heat role players stepped up big time to even the NBA Finals at 1-1.
“He’s got guts, c’mon. He’s had that all the way in college,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Chalmers, a player who often finds himself on the receiving end of a tongue lashing from LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh when things are not going according to plan.
“He’s got incredible confidence in his game,” Spoelstra said. You have to have guts to play with our guys. If you don’t you get swallowed up.”
Chalmers never gets rattled and seems to play his best (11.5 points in 13 NBA Finals games) when it matters most.
“I think Rio, more than anybody, kept us aggressive. Him getting into the paint, him getting those and-ones, and him getting a couple of threes allowed me to kinda sit back and take my time,” LeBron said of the Heat guard who was the catalyst of Miami’s second-half explosion that turned a nip-and-tuck affair into a 103-84 blowout for the Heat.
After the Spurs took a 62-61 lead with 3:50 left in the third quarter, Chalmers’ basket and free throw put the Heat up 64-62, then set up Ray Allen’s 3-pointer from the wing with a nice kick-out pass that ABC announcer Jeff Van Gundy called an “unselfish play.”
Moments later, Chalmers used a LeBron James screen to get around Parker and when Kawhi Leonard helped out, he slipped a pocket pass between the two Spurs and right to James for a layup that gave the Heat a 69-62 lead. Chalmers capped off a 14-3 run when he blew past Parker and scored on a short jumper plus a foul for another 3-point play.
“Rio has to play big for us. Defensively, he’s guarding arguably the best point guard in the league. But he also has to make Tony [Parker] work on the defensive end,” James said. “He can’t be passive. He has to attack and shoot his shots when he has them.
“We ran a lot of pick-and-rolls between the two of us, and I told him keep attacking and let’s try to push this lead up and go for the kill. And we were able to do that.”