Mario Chalmers, Shabazz Napier step up production for ailing Heat

BY foxsports • November 23, 2014

MIAMI -- Injuries are an unfortunate circumstance in any sport, and with the NBA season in full swing, several teams have been hampered with injuries to key players. The Miami Heat are no exception, but with starting guards Dwyane Wade and Norris Cole both out, a door has been opened for more opportunities for Mario Chalmers and rookie Shabazz Napier.

Both players bring something different to the table, and their production against the Charlotte Hornets was the catalyst for the fourth-quarter rally that resulted in the tight 94-93 victory at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Sunday night.

After a disappointing third quarter that netted just 14 points for the team, Chalmers and Napier led the charge along with Chris Bosh down the stretch. The two guards were aggressive with their shots, something that wasn't necessarily the case before with Napier, who began the regular season trying a little too hard to get his teammates going without looking for his own shot. But without the offense from Wade and playmaking abilities from Cole, both Napier and Chalmers found a way to make it work together in crunch time.

Head coach Erik Spoelstra said there was more to Chalmers' contributions than his 20 points.

"The playmaking all in general, (and) his pace," Spoelstra said. "He's showing a lot more poise as a playmaker and that's what he is right now. He's not a scorer, not an assist guy, but that's truly now what Dwyane does. He's a playmaker. Whatever is the best play for the team, you have to read the defense to do it."

Spoelstra called the close win a "good step forward." Though it seems that every game so far this season has seen last-second adjustments to the lineup because of injuries, Spoelstra said this is a good time to see what his healthy players are made of.

"It's more about the resolve and the mental toughness that you build up as a team," he said. "But regardless who's out there, are you playing consistently to your identity? Are we defending? Are we sharing the basketball? Are we responding after tough plays? I liked it when 'Bazz had a couple of tough plays, a couple of turnovers, a blocked shot. And then he came back and made a couple of bigger plays, and that's progress."

Napier had only three points by halftime but picked up his scoring with 11 in the second half. Down by four with less than six minutes remaining, Napier came up with a huge steal that resulted in a pair of free throws. He followed that up with a 3-pointer on the Heat's next possession to give the Heat their first lead of the quarter.

Chalmers was the player who assisted Napier on that basket, and Chalmers' own aggressiveness resulted in making 9 of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter along with a 3-pointer.

"I like his pace of game right now," Spoelstra said of Chalmers. "He's playing at different tempos. He's not getting out of control. He's not playing at one speed as fast as he possibly can. He's reading the defense, making the appropriate read, and then changing speeds to get into the paint when he needs to. That's how he's drawing a lot of those fouls, instead of one speed and take off at the launching pad."

The Heat needed Chalmers' scoring with Wade sitting out his sixth consecutive game, but the playmaker in him helped get everyone involved on offense.

"It's great playing with Mario," said Luol Deng, who led the team with 26 points. "I felt like I haven't had much time playing with him. When he came in I was kind of going out. It's been a lot of different lineups and it's really early in the season. It's just about really learning each other and once you go out there, you don't think twice about what you've got to do or what the other guys are doing. That's the chemistry we're really trying to get to. My whole game is really playing off of other guys and then just moving without the ball. The more I get to read him and they get to read me out there, we'll be a better team."

You can follow Surya Fernandez on Twitter @SuryaHeatNBA or email him at SuryaFoxSports@gmail.com.


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