Shane Battier shows bench's importance for Heat's title
Shane Battier's Game 7 was the last in a long line of important performances from Heat role players.
By CHARLIE McCARTHYFS Florida
MIAMI — Shane Battier had a feeling he would get his shot in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
“I knew that our starters were going to be pretty tired after Game 6. It was an emotionally and physically draining game,” Battier said. “So I felt great.”
Battier hit 6 of 8 3-pointers, including his first five attempts, to play a huge role in the Miami
Heat’s 95-88 title-clinching victory against the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night.
Miami’s Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were the biggest reason the Heat went 66-16 during the regular season. But to repeat as NBA champions, especially against Indiana in the Eastern Conference finals and San Antonio in the NBA Finals, the Heat could not have prevailed without the supporting cast.
Battier, Ray Allen, Mike Miller, Chris Andersen and Mario Chalmers all had key NBA Finals moments.
Benched after struggling against Indiana, Battier watched teammate Mike Miller go a combined 8 of 8 from 3-point territory in Games 2 and 3 against the Spurs.
Battier then rediscovered his stroke at a most opportune time. After going 3 of 15 from behind the arc through the Finals’ first five games, he nailed 3 of 4 in Miami’s 103-100 Game 6 triumph in overtime.
“The basketball gods — I believe in basketball gods — I felt they owed me big time,” Battier said. “I had a bunch of shots in San Antonio that went in and out.”
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra credited Battier with having a champion’s approach.
“He was smart enough to know that sometimes it’s about matchups; series things change,” Spoelstra said. “But he’s so important to what we do that eventually he would get his chance again.”
Battier was Game 7’s long-distance operator largely because Ray Allen hit the biggest 3-pointer of his career with 5.2 seconds left in regulation on Tuesday to send Game 6 into overtime.
“I’ve won one championship (with Boston in 2008) and to be able to say I won two is something that separates me from a lot of people,” Allen said with a lit victory cigar in his left hand. “Those are those lucky bounces you sometimes need to win and get over the hump. We’ll talk about that (shot) forever.”
Allen played in his NBA record 11th career Game 7, pushing him one ahead of former Celtics great Bill Russell.
“The locker room here, these group of guys, the way they welcomed me in, the way they took to me, they allowed me to be who I needed to be to help them win,” Allen said. “I couldn’t say enough great things about them, each one of them. Probably the best locker room situation I’ve seen or been a part of.”
With Battier, Miller and Allen contributing mostly from the outside, 6-foot-10 Chris “Birdman” Andersen provided physical presence and key emotional lifts.
“Man, it’s surreal. All that hard work finally paid off,” said Andersen, who received two 10-day contracts in January before signing for the rest of the season.
Miami’s championship was the first for the heavily tattooed Andersen, who in 2006 was disqualified from the league for violating the league's anti-drug policy.
“This is a life-changer for me,” Andersen said of the title. “I dedicated my time, my body, broken bones, sweat, blood to finally be here. These guys, these brothers of mine who helped me get to this point, I’m on top of the world.
As Andersen finished, veteran Juwan Howard walked up to him and yelled, “The Birdman!” as he poured champagne with both hands on Andersen’s head.
In the hallway outside the Heat locker room, Chalmers, Miller, Allen and forward James Jones were posing for a photo when Allen motioned for Rashard Lewis to join them.
Lewis, who played sparingly during the Finals, won his first NBA championship. He was a member of the Orlando Magic team that lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2009 finals.