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Alaska's Chalmers earns praise after big game in finals

George RichardsMiami Herald
Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade, right, acknowledges the fans as Mario Chalmers, left, Joel Anthony, second from left, and Udonis Haslem look on in Miami, Monday, June 25, 2012. Thousands of people filled the arena for the Heat NBA Championship celebration.
Alan Diaz / AP2012
The Miami Heat basketball team is greeted by fans at the arena in Miami, Monday, June 25, 2012. The Heat celebrated their NBA Championship victory with thousands of fans.
Alan Diaz / AP2012
Miami's Mario Chalmers drives to the basket past Oklahoma defenders during Game 5 of the NBA Finals at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida, Thursday, June 21, 2012.
Robert Duyos / MCT
NBA legend Bill Russell presents the most valuable player award to the Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) after Game 5 of the NBA finals basketball series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Friday, June 22, 2012, in Miami. The Heat won 121-106 to become the 2012 NBA Champions.
Lynne Sladky / AP2012
Miami's Mario Chalmers passes the ball past Oklahoma's Nick Collison during Game 5 of the NBA Finals at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida, Thursday, June 21, 2012.
Robert Duyos / MCT
Mario Chalmers celebrates with teammate Dwyane Wade in the third quarter of game 5 as the Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, 121-106 in the NBA champioship, at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida, Thursday, June 21, 2012.
David Santiago / MCT
Miami's Mario Chalmers works past Oklahoma's Thabo Sefolosha in the first quarter during Game 5 of the NBA Finals at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida, Thursday, June 21, 2012.
Robert Duyos / MCT
Mario Chalmers reacts after a play during the third quarter of game 5 as the Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, 121-106 in the NBA champioship, at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida, Thursday, June 21, 2012.
David Santiago / MCT
Miami Heat point guard Mario Chalmers (15) passes as Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook (0) defends during the first half at Game 5 of the NBA finals basketball series, Thursday, June 21, 2012, in Miami.
Wilfredo Lee / AP2012
Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka (9) from Republic of Congo, Miami Heat point guard Mario Chalmers (15), point guard Russell Westbrook (0) and shooting guard Dwyane Wade (3) watch the ball fall at Game 5 of the NBA finals basketball series, Thursday, June 21, 2012, in Miami. The Heat won 121-106 to become the 2012 NBA Champions.
Larry W. Smith / AP2012
Miami Heat point guard Mario Chalmers (15) passes as Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook (0) defends during the first half at Game 5 of the NBA finals basketball series, Thursday, June 21, 2012, in Miami.
Wilfredo Lee / AP2012
Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant , left, and Miami Heat point guard Mario Chalmers (15) are separated during the second half at Game 5 of the NBA finals basketball series, Thursday, June 21, 2012, in Miami.
Wilfredo Lee / AP2012
Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka (9) from Republic of Congo yells at Miami Heat point guard Mario Chalmers after Chalmers and the Thunders' Kevin Durant had been separated during the second half at Game 5 of the NBA finals basketball series, Thursday, June 21, 2012, in Miami.
Lynne Sladky / AP2012
Mario Chalmers of the Miami Herald reacts after hitting a three pointer in the fourth quarter during Game 4 of the NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida, Tuesday, June 19, 2012.
Al Diaz / MCT
Mario Chalmers of the Miami Heat looks to pass against Kevin Durant, left, and Serge Ibaka of the Miami Heat during the third quarter in Game 4 of the NBA Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida, Tuesday, June 19, 2012.
David Santiago / MCT
Mario Chalmers of the Miami Heat goes to the basket against Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder during the fourth quarter in Game 4 of the NBA Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida, Tuesday, June 19, 2012.
David Santiago / MCT
Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers goes up for a basket against Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook with a few minutes left in the fourth quarter during Game 4 of the NBA Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida, Tuesday, June 19, 2012.
Pedro Portal / MCT
Jordan Jamestown of West High defends as Mario Chalmers of West High brings the ball down the court during a basketball match up at West High School.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
Miami Heat forward LeBron James gives teammate Mario Chalmers a kiss on the head after having a conversation with him during a timeout in the fourth quarter in Game 3 of the NBA Finals at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida on Sunday, June 17, 2012.
Jim Rassol / MCT
Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers takes a three-point shot in the first quarter during Game 1 of the NBA Finals at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on Tuesday, June 12, 2012.
Robert Duyos / MCT
Bartlett's Mario Chalmers drives down the court as Robbie Champion of Wasilla keeps pace in a basketball game at Bartlett High School.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
New West High coach Antonio Wyche and Mario Chalmers talks with basketball camper Shaquan Rhoades, of Eagle River High at Bartlett High. Former Bartlett High basketball star and current member of the NBA Miami Heat, Mario Chalmers, holds a basketball camp at the high school on Wednesday, August 10, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Mario Chalmers of Bartlett moves the ball downcourt during a game against Service March 14, 2003.
Evan R. Steinhauser / Anchorage Daily News
Kansas' Mario Chalmers (15) makes a cut from the net after the Jayhawks 75-68 win over the Memphis Tigers in the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, Monday, April 7, 2008.
Harry E. Walker / MCT
Kansas' Mario Chalmers (15) puts up a game-tying three point shot against Memphis to send the game into overtime during the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, Monday, April 7, 2008. Kansas defeated Memphis, 75-68.
Jeff Siner / MCT
Kansas Mario Chalmers (15-center) celebrates the Jayhawks 75-68 win over the Memphis Tigers in the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, Monday, April 7, 2008.
Ron T. Ennis / MCT
Mario Chalmers shakes hands with Bartlett High School students Tuesday. Mario Chalmers' high school basketball jersey was retired at a ceremony at Bartlett High School on Tuesday, August 16, 2011. Chalmers, a point guard for the Miami Heat, won two high school basketball state championships at Bartlett before going on to the University of Kansas, where the Jayhawks won the 2008 NCAA championship.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Mario Chalmers is introduced to the audience. Mario Chalmers' high school basketball jersey was retired at a ceremony at Bartlett High School on Tuesday, August 16, 2011. Chalmers, a point guard for the Miami Heat, won two high school basketball state championships at Bartlett before going on to the University of Kansas, where the Jayhawks won the 2008 NCAA championship.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Mario Chalmers, guard at Bartlett High School in Anchorage, Alaska, is taken out his last high school game by his father and coach Ronnie Chalmers on Saturday, April 2, 2005. His team took fourth place in the Alaska large school state tournament.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Mario Chalmers, a guard at Bartlett High School in Anchorage, Alaska, puts a shot up in the Alaska state tournament Saturday. His team beat West Valley High of Fairbanks to take fourth place in the tournament.
Marc Lester / Marc Lester
Asiah Parris, a sophomore cheerleader at Bartlett, shows excitement standing next to NBA player Mario Chalmers at a school assembly on Tuesday, August 16, 2011. Mario Chalmers' high school basketball jersey was retired at a ceremony at Bartlett High School on Tuesday, August 16, 2011. Chalmers, a point guard for the Miami Heat, won two high school basketball state championships at Bartlett before going on to the University of Kansas, where the Jayhawks won the 2008 NCAA championship.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Bob Hallinen/Anchorage Daily NewsBartlett's Mario Chalmers goes up for a shot during a game against the Chugiak Mustangs in January this year. 040106
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
Marc Lester/Anchorage Daily NewsBartlett's Doug Hardy, left, defends Wasilla's Aaron Roth. Bartlett's Mario Chalmers defends the far side.030110 1/10/03 Alaska Prep Shootout at Dimond High
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Bartlett's Mario Chalmers keeps the ball out of the hands of Wasilla's Buddy Bailey in the first half.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News

MIAMI -- Dwyane Wade wasn't asked his opinion of how Anchorage's Mario Chalmers played on Tuesday night in the NBA Finals, but he gave it anyway. ABC TV caught it, broadcast it live and could be fined by the FCC because of it.

Wade used one expletive twice -- the word Ralphie called "the queen-mother of dirty words" in A Christmas Story -- to punctuate Chalmers' huge game.

Some Miami fans were likely using the same word earlier in the game when Chalmers missed his first three shots as the Heat fell behind by double-digits.

But Wade used the word in praise after Chalmers came up huge in Miami's 104-98 victory in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

Not only did Chalmers score a playoff-high 25 points, he scored the Heat's final five points of the night.

"That kid," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, "is not afraid of any moment. We all know that. He's a gutsy kid."

And now Chalmers, 26, is poised to become Alaska's first NBA champion -- and one of only a handful of men who have won basketball championships at the high school, Division I college and NBA levels. Chalmers landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2008 for his heroics in the NCAA championship game, and he led the Bartlett Golden Bears to back-to-back state titles in 2002 and 2003.

The Heat have control of the series with a 3-1 lead going into Game 5 in Miami on Thursday.

Chalmers, traded to Miami from Minnesota on draft night in 2008 after helping Kansas to the NCAA championship, has been erratic in four seasons with the Heat. That hasn't changed in the postseason. But he's definitely had his moments, and Tuesday night was one of them.

"No matter what, no matter how tough we are on him, he actually thinks he's the best player on this team and that's a gift and a curse," Wade said. "But (Tuessday) it was a gift for us because he never gets down on himself, he always believes, 'Find me, I can make a shot. I can make a play.' He was huge for us."

Chalmers is the Heat's official locker room criticism lightning rod. LeBron James, in particular, thinks nothing of screaming a few things at Chalmers when Chalmers makes a mistake in a game. It happens almost every game, actually, and because Chalmers usually seems undeterred by it all, the Heat have never seen a reason to stop directing the in-game antics.

"We've been staying on him because we need him," Heat forward Chris Bosh said. "We knew coming into the season we needed him to be a better point guard. We all had to get better, and he's just outlasted a tremendous amount of pressure and he's responding every time, and that's what he does."

Chalmers had six points at halftime, after shooting miserably in Games 2 and 3. In the second half, he was 7 for 10 from the floor, with just one turnover in nearly 23 minutes.

"I didn't lose any confidence," Chalmers said. "I was just picking my spots better. I think I was rushing my shot, not squaring up to the basket. I watched a little bit of film on my shots, and I made the correction."

When James left the game in the fourth quarter with leg cramps, Chalmers stepped up -- much like the way he did for Kansas in that never-to-be-forgotten NCAA title game against Memphis, when he nailed a three-pointer over Derrick Rose with time running out to send the game to overtime, where the Jayhawks prevailed.

Chalmers kept the Thunder at bay, twice taking the ball with the Heat up by three and extending the lead to five both times, first on a layup with 44.6 seconds left, then with two free throws that sealed it with 13.8 seconds remaining.

The Thunder opened the game with star Kevin Durant guarding Chalmers, a move to keep Durant out of foul trouble. It worked on that front. It failed on another, the one that left Chalmers fired up about the snub.

"Yeah, I took that as a little sign of disrespect," Chalmers said. "For me, I worked too hard to be in the position I'm in now. Even though my offense wasn't clicking three games in the series, I wanted to step up for my team, and I was able to do that."

And now, he's one win away from an NBA title to go with that NCAA ring and those Alaska state championships.


By GEORGE RICHARDS
Miami Herald