After Game 1 Eric Spoelstra was frustrated with Mario Chalmers because on a night depth was needed Chalmers was in foul trouble limiting his minutes.
Spoelstra should be even less happy now — Chalmers has been a virtual no show through three games of the NBA Finals.
Chalmers prides himself on unshakable confidence and stepping up in the big moments (as he has done since college), but he has averaged 3.3 points a game on 25 percent shooting through three Finals games against the Spurs. In Game 3 Chalmers was 0-of-3 on uncontested jumpers (he missed his two contested ones, too). When he is in the lineup the Heat’s offensive flow takes a noticeable hit and he has a defensive rating of 118.3 so far in the Finals, according to NBA.com’s stats.
Chalmers’ slump goes back a couple playoff series now. His teammates and Eric Spoelstra have talked about trying to boost his confidence, about telling him to just play the game and be himself. Just focus on one thing and do it well. But it hasn’t worked and the struggles seem to be weighing him down.
The brash, confident Chalmers didn’t sound it after the Heat got routed in Game 3.
Chalmers: "I think everybody else is doing their job and I'm being that guy that's not helping out. I don't want to be that guy."
Eric Spoelstra leaned more on Norris Cole, who brought much better energy to the position, but that’s about all. Cole had 8 points on 33.3 percent shooting and was -8 with some defensive lapses in Game 3.
During the season the Heat have had some success with no point guard lineups — a Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen backcourt where LeBron is the primary ball handler. That didn’t work against the Spurs in Game 3, those lineups were -9. Not that anything worked in Game 3 for the Heat.
Spoelstra’s problem is he has no good options here — Chalmers has been bad but Cole is not a guy the Heat have really trusted. The no PG lineups are not a long-term answer, they force Tony Parker into some difficult covers but they also can be a defensive challenge for the Heat.
The Jazz waived Cotton before the season despite Dante Exum‘s injury leaving them with just two other healthy point guards. That says something about Cotton – but also Utah’s depth.
Cotton – who went undrafted out of Providence last year – is quick, varies his speed well and can leap. There’s reason to believe in his potential at age 23. But his 6-foot-1 frame limits him defensively, and he’s not much of a distributor.
Plumlee lowered his head and tried to barrel through Butler’s chest on a Butler screen. Butler fell and retaliated by putting Plumlee in a leg lock, causing Plumlee to fall.
You might remember a leg lock as what Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova did to Bulls forward Taj Gibson during last year’s playoffs. For all the talk then of Dellavedova being a dirty player, Butler seems particularly aggrieved after getting a technical foul, which comes with a $2,500 fine – the same penalty Dellavedova eventually received. (Plumlee got a flagrant foul.)
“He thought he was playing football for a second there,” Butler said. “Almost had to let the Fort Greene Projects out of me, Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying?”
It was said tongue in cheek considering Gibson was a few feet over and Butler wanted to draw some laughs. Gibson is a Brooklyn native and grew up in the Fort Greene Projects while Butler grew up in Tomball, Texas.
It was no laughing matter when he said he would find a way to approach Plumlee about the fine money, jokingly suggesting he would have his agent email him at “Mr. Dukie@yahoo.com or something” and made a joke about Mike Dunleavy applauding Plumlee’s act.
Plumlee and Dunleavy are products of Duke University.
“Yeah, he cost me 2,500,” Butler said. “I’m not happy about that. Gonna ask him to pay me back and I’m not playing.”
“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.
“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”
Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the
Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8
The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.
I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.
If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.
At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.
This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.