The hotshot point guard was hot. And making shots.
No, not Kyrie Irving, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Rookie of the Year front-runner.
Rather Mario Chalmers, the Miami Heat’s lineup afterthought who quietly has positioned himself among the NBA’s 3-point elite this season.
Converting four 3-pointers on a night when lineup balance was needed against a feisty lottery-bound opponent, Chalmers helped spark the Heat to a 107-91 victory Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
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The upshot was another hardly overwhelming showing against one of the league’s lesser teams, but an 11th victory in the last 13 games nonetheless for the Heat, keeping Erik Spoelstra in the race to coach the Eastern Conference in the NBA All-Star Game, with that cutoff next Tuesday.
“The final score was not indicative about how competitive as that game was,” Spoelstra said. “They’re a tough team to put away.”
To a degree, it was a needed victory, with a six-game trip opening Wednesday against the Orlando Magic, a 10-day excursion that includes the Heat’s lone set of three games in three nights in this lockout-compacted season.
“We’re looking at this road trip really as an opportunity for us to come together as a team,” Spoelstra said. “It’s an opportunity for us to have a breakthrough as a ball club.”
By the finish, it was a somewhat typical box score for the Heat, with Dwyane Wade scoring 26, LeBron James 24 and Chris Bosh 15.
But Chalmers’ 14 points were a needed counterbalance on a night the Heat came out feasting on points in the paint.
“He gets a lot of open looks with this team,” Spoelstra said. “Often times, he’s wide open there from three, and he’s making them pay.”
Chalmers entered eighth in the league in 3-point percentage, with the top 3-point percentage among players to attempt at least 100 3-pointers so far this season, well ahead of New Jersey Nets guard Anthony Morrow in that regard.
“That’s him putting in the time,” Spoelstra said of Chalmers’ upgraded accuracy from deep. “It’s a residual of priming that pump for three and a half years.
“It’s good to see that work and sweat finally start to pay off.”
Chalmers said it was one of those nights when the shot felt right.
“I kind of have the groove and my teammates were finding me,” he said.
For some teammates, shooting while standing wide open can be disconcerting.
Not for Chalmers.
“I just move on the court and see where my teammates can find me,” he said. “We work a lot on that, finding the spots where I can knock down the shots.”