Don’t say Norris Cole wasn’t ready for the interview podium Friday night. He even rolled out some Russell Westbrook-like glasses.
But Westbrook never has shot the way from 3-point range in the playoffs that Cole has.
After Cole scored 18 points off the bench in the Miami Heat’s 104-94 win over the Chicago Bulls in Game 3 of an Eastern Conference semifinal, he got plenty of ribbing from his teammates about taking his seat at the podium in front of the cameras. During the playoffs, that’s pretty much the exclusive territory of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh when it comes to the Heat.
“I stayed prepared,’’ the second-year reserve point guard said about making his initial visit. “I stayed prepared.’’
Cole also has been prepared with his shot. He was 6 of 7 from the field Friday, including 3 of 3 from 3-point range. Cole is now 8 of 8 from beyond the arc in this series as the Heat have taken a 2-1 lead.
“Right now it’s feeling pretty comfortable out there on the court,’’ Cole said. “That comes from the film sessions, working with the coaches. That comes from the habits built up during the season. We still have a long way to go, but I’m pleased with my progress so far.’’
Cole also had 18 points in Game 2, a resounding 115-78 Heat win at AmericanAirlines Arena. He was 4 of 4 from long range in that game.
Cole said his 3-pointer has gotten better thanks to his work with Heat assistant coach Dan Craig and with his personal shooting coach, former NBA guard Sedric Toney, who is from Cole’s hometown of Dayton, Ohio. Having stints in the NBA between 1985 and 1994, Toney was a 36.5-percent 3-point marksman.
“I think it’s just the reps,’’ Cole said. “Every shooter knows that you want to shoot the same shot consistency over and over and be balanced.’’
Cole really helped the Heat on a night Miami’s other guards didn’t do a lot offensively. Starters Wade (10) and Mario Chalmers (9) combined for just 19 points and top reserve Ray Allen shot just 1 of 6 for 4 points.
While Cole’s production the past two games has to be regarded as somewhat of a surprise, it’s not like there hasn’t been signs about his recent improvement. Cole shot 52.9 percent (18 of 34) over the last 14 regular-season games to finish at 35.7 percent. That was way better than the 27.6 percent he managed as a rookie last season.
“He’s a tough competitor,’’ Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Norris had an opportunity, and he made some big plays for us.’’
Suffice to say the Bulls didn’t do a lot of game planning before the series to stop Cole. They obviously had plenty to worry about with the Big Three and with Allen having come off a first-round series against Milwaukee in which he averaged 16.5 points while making 13 of 28 3-pointers (46.4 percent).
“He played very well for them,’’ Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said of Cole, taken with the No. 28 pick in the 2011 draft. “He’s a good player, a very good player. He’s improved every year in the league …. He’s made a lot of big shots. And we’ll have to come up with a better answer.’’
If not, Cole might be back at the podium before this series ends. He certainly will be prepared for it.