Heat's Chalmers is on hot seat vs. Celtics

May 27, 2012 

MIAMI - Mario Chalmers of Anchorage hears the talk.

Some of it first-hand.

Some of it brought to him by intermediaries.

He is aware ABC's Jeff Van Gundy called him "the key to the series" for the Heat in these Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics.

"I agree," Chalmers said Sunday afternoon.

He knows Dwyane Wade gave pretty much the same assessment, calling him "one of the biggest keys to the series" at both ends of the floor.

"No way around it," Wade said. "He has to play well for us."

Chalmers, set to match up with the remarkable Rajon Rondo for most of these next two weeks, recognizes LeBron James is counting on him as well.

"Rio has to be offensive-minded," LeBron said. "We know Rondo will be. We always need Rio to be offensive-minded, no matter who we're going against, but it's even more crucial this series."

No one knows when Chris Bosh will return.

Everyone pretty much assumes the Celtics will double-team Wade and LeBron whenever possible.

That leaves the Heat's complementary players squarely in the spotlight.

Can Shane Battier knock down a few 3s the way he did in Game 5 against the Pacers?

Same for Mike Miller, whose jumper finally showed up in Game 6?

But the quickest way to get some breathing room for the Dynamic Duo is for Chalmers to assert himself.

The more he can make Rondo work on defense, the less havoc Rondo (third in playoff steals) will be able to cause.

The more Chalmers can stay in front of Rondo, the harder it will be for him to break down the Heat's defense and create open shots for a team of aging jumpshooters.

"No one can figure out how to defend Rondo," LeBron said. "I don't think anyone has the blueprint. He's a unique player. He's unpredictable."

Witness those two long-range jumpers Rondo hit Saturday against the Sixers after Paul Pierce fouled out late in Game 7. That's not supposed to be part of Rondo's repertoire, but he drained them when it counted.

"He did what winners do," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "You can't define him by a statistic or his numbers. He makes winning plays, and he does it always in the biggest moments."

Rondo did plenty of damage against the Heat this season. He missed the final meeting in late April, but in the first three games he averaged 18.7 points on 51-percent shooting.

He averaged 7.7 rebounds, 13.7 assists and made just 12 total turnovers.

He did all this while playing over 40 minutes per game.

"We all know what he has," Wade said. "Unbelievable passer. Rebounds as well as a five man. He's just gifted with so many things a lot of guys don't have. He's one of the best there is."

How good is Rondo?

He dislocated his left elbow halfway through last year's playoff series against the Heat. Even with everybody knowing he could only go right, he still averaged 10.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists.

Some Heat players feigned amnesia Sunday when asked about the impact of the One-Armed Point Guard on last year's series.

"I don't even remember, honestly," LeBron fibbed. "What game was it?"

Yet Spoelstra admitted that twist of fate "changed" a closely contested series, and Chalmers allowed Rondo "wasn't himself," even as he managed to keep Chalmers quiet.

Just once in last year's series did Chalmers contribute more than three points, that coming in a 17-point Game 3, the only Celtics win.

"It's a new year," Chalmers said. "Last year's over and done with."

Obviously, Chalmers hopes/needs to do more this time.

He can already feel the spotlight. Rather than run from the challenge, he vows to meet it head-on.

"It motivates me a lot," Chalmers said. "I'm always a person that wants to step up in big moments. This is another big moment for me to step up."

No way around it.

Anchorage Daily News is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service