Ask Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem, separately, about the prospect of defending two future Hall of Famers in the NBA Finals, and they offer identical answers: “Looking forward to the challenge.”
Chalmers will draw the initial assignment on Tony Parker, though Norris Cole and perhaps LeBron James also will chase the Spurs’ point guard at times. The key?
“Keep a body on him,” Chalmers said. “Try to match his speed and not let him get any open looks. He never gets rattled. It’s going to be my job to make it a tough series for him.” Chalmers has always been disruptive in passing lanes, but he said his individual defense “is a lot better. I keep getting wiser and wiser.”
Coach Erik Spoelstra said the Heat will “throw different bodies in front of” Parker and hope it’s “wearing on him.”
Haslem played stout defense against Duncan in their last encounter, forcing a late miss in the Heat’s victory on March 31. Duncan, 6-11, has a three-inch height advantage, but that’s not as extreme as Roy Hibbert’s six-inch advantage when he and Haslem were matched up in the Indiana series.
“I’m used to playing guys bigger than me,” Haslem said, adding his approach with Duncan is to try to “make him uncomfortable, keep him out of his sweet spots.
“I play about 17 minutes a game, so it’s going to be another 30 minutes somebody else might be on him. So in my 17 to 20 minutes, I’ve got to make him work defensively. Offensively, he has the total package. You try to take away something from him and he counters that.”
Forward Shane Battier said the Heat has given him no indication whether he will return to the rotation Thursday after he was benched for Game 7 of the Pacers series — only his second did-not-play/coach’s decision of the season. He was coming off an injury in the only previous DND/CD, on Jan. 14 at Utah.
He said not playing Monday was “maybe the toughest thing I’ve gone through as a competitor. Super happy for my teammates. Every now and then, you’ve got to eat a turd sandwich. Eat a turd sandwich, that ribeye tastes really good next time. That’s life. … I know my time will come.”• Heat center Chris Bosh said one reason for his ongoing 8-for-34 shooting slump is issues with balance. “If I’m on balance, everything falls into place. I wasn’t on balance for a while.” He said he wants “to get going offensively early in the game because it helps me play better, propels me for the rest of the game.”
• Bosh called Duncan “one of the greats,” but then said he has no relationship with him and added: “I know everybody is going to try to pick him out to be a nice guy, but you can’t be nice and win championships. It’s a simple fact. You can’t be nice and win in this league.”
• Heat guard Ray Allen said he feels “pure joy just getting back here. This is my third time, and this feeling never gets old.”
• Asked if he needs to watch less film of James because he’s on TV so much, Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard said: “I don’t watch TV much.” But “guarding him is going to make me a better player. I would rather guard the best guy on the floor.”
• Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said that compared to Miami’s last opponent, “we are not as athletic as Indiana but we maybe move the ball better and shoot better. We will try not to turn over the ball like Indiana did.”