Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As the Miami Heat struggled in the first quarter of Game 4, head coach Erik Spoelstra looked to his bench and decided to give rookie Norris Cole some minutes.
Cole came into the game and hit a big 3-pointer to end the first quarter and help narrow the Oklahoma City Thunder’s lead to 33-19. Then as the second quarter started, Cole again hit a 3-pointer to help ignite a Miami run to close the Thunder’s lead to just 3 at halftime.
Spoelstra’s move was perfectly timed and it had another unintended consequence. As Cole started to play well, starter Mario Chalmers was forced to watch from the bench. Then when Chalmers came back into the game, he finally broke out.
Chalmers made shot after shot down the stretch whether he was blowing right past the Thunder’s Kevin Durant for a layup or hitting catch-and-shoot 3-pointers. Even at the end of the game, Chalmers recovered the ball after a jump ball and was fouled by the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook.
Chalmers calmly stepped to the free throw line with the weight of the world on his shoulders and hit a couple of free throws to seal the victory for the Heat.
Basketball fans knows Chalmers is not afraid to take the big shot. He sent the national championship game between Kansas and Memphis to overtime with a last second 3-pointer a few years ago.
Tuesday night, Cole and Chalmers finally had the big breakout game Heat fans had hoped to see all season long. When the final horn sounded, the point guard duo finished the game with 33 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and just 1 turnover for the game.
Miami has been defined by the Big Three for the last two years. But throughout the Finals, the Heat’s role players have come through in a big way. Whether it’s Shane Battier in Games 1-3 or Chalmers and Cole in Game 4, the Heat has constantly had an answer.
Now, with the Heat on the cusp of a championship; those very role players will have to come up big just one more time and then the party can really get started in Miami as the Heat hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy.