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James’ absence not the only factor in Heat’s loss to Spurs in Finals opener

Mario Chalmers must step up his game if the Heat are going to win a third consecutive title.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

LeBron James missed the last four minutes of the Miami Heat’s loss to San Antonio in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, sidelined by cramping problems brought on by the failure of air conditioning in the AT&T Center.

His loss, no doubt, was a key contributing factor in the Heat’s collapse over the final four minutes. After James was carried from the floor, the game went from a two-point Spurs’ lead to a 110-95 Spurs’ victory.

But another Heat starter has been virtually missing in action for the last 10 games of these playoffs.

If the Heat are going to win a third consecutive league title, guard Mario Chalmers is going to have to get back to the level that saw him averaging 9.8 points, 4.9 assists, and 1.6 steals a game for the regular season.

Against the Spurs Thursday night, he had more fouls (5) than points (3) and far more turnovers (5) than assists (1). He played just 17 minutes, just over half his average for the regular season when he was on the floor for just under 30 minutes a game.

Chalmers hasn’t scored in double figures since going for 11 points in a win over Brooklyn in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on May 8. His high has been eight points, reached twice (May 12 in a win over Brooklyn and May 28 in a loss to the Indiana Pacers). His average over that span is 5.0 points per game.

He has shot only 40.4 percent from the field over that span (19-of-47) after shooting 45.4 percent for the season. Most of his success came in a four-game stretch when he was 10-of-14 from the field. Take out that success and he was only 9-of-33 (27.1 percent) in the other six losses.

He hasn’t fouled out of any recent game, but twice in the last 10 outings he has finished with five fouls and in a third he finished with four. He also has had five turnovers twice.

If Chalmers doesn’t snap out of it, starting with Sunday’s Game 2 in San Antonio (8 p.m., EDT, ABC), coach Erik Spoelstra is going to be forced to give backup point guard Norris Cole more time. Unfortunately, Cole has made only one over his last eight shots in the last three games, but he does add some intensity on defense and has had his moments offensively in the playoffs.