Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 6/20/12
MIAMI It has taken nine years and been a labyrinthine journey, but it looks as if through the missteps, the soul searching and the blitzkrieg of criticism, LeBron James has evolved into someone who is at ease when everything is heaped on his broad shoulders. That much appeared clear Tuesday night when James, fighting off leg cramps, sank a tie-breaking 3-pointer with 2:51 left to send Miami on its way to a 104-98 victory over Oklahoma City, giving the Heat a 3-1 series lead and leaving James one victory shy of his long-sought championship. And yet it is not without some irony that James' partner in carrying Miami was Mario Chalmers. While an enormous investment has been required from James to cultivate a certain comfort in these circumstances, Chalmers has never squirmed when the game is in his hands. One seems to have acquired his late-game gravitas by nature, the other by nurture. Chalmers, who helped Kansas to a national title with one of the great clutch shots in NCAA tournament history, once again embraced the big moment that so used to overwhelm James. For much of the series, Chalmers was a cipher he missed 16 of 18 shots in one stretch. But when the Heat needed him most, with Russell Westbrook scintillating and James on the bench for the final minute with cramps, Chalmers calmly delivered. He scored 25 points, more than he had in the entire series, and had 12 during the fourth quarter. He sank three 3-pointers, matching his total for the first three games. Most importantly, with James on the bench, Chalmers drove past Thabo Sefalosha, the Thunder's best perimeter defender, and lofted the ball over Serge Ibaka, the NBA's premier shot-blocker, and into the basket with 44.2 seconds left. It provided Miami with a five-point lead and when Chalmers sank two free throws with 13.8 seconds left, it sealed the victory. "It's part of your DNA, you're just born with it," Miami guard Dwyane Wade said of Chalmers, noting a tattoo on his shoulder. "What it says on his arm, 'Mr. Clutch,' that clutch gene, you've got to be born with it and he has it." Wade smiled as he spoke, something most Miami players do when they speak of Chalmers. If they are speaking at him, particularly during a game, it may be a different story. Often they are gnashing their teeth. If Chalmers can be clutch, he can also confound. In the more mundane moments of a game, Chalmers is prone to miss assignments, miss shots and leave his teammates wondering where his head is. This often leads to shouting matches between Chalmers and his teammates, as it did when James barked at him in Oklahoma City. Chalmers did not hesitate to shout right back. "It's an attribute that's tough to teach, being able to stay in the moment," said Miami forward Shane Battier, who along with Chalmers is trying to become the fifth and sixth active players to win an NBA and NCAA title. "It's a special skill and Mario has it." And then Battier smiled. "It's almost detachment," he continued. "That's what every Buddhist is trying to get to that's what Mario has, basketball detachment." Chalmers, as he walked down a corridor late Tuesday night, suggested his upbringing has much to do with this. Chalmers grew up in Alaska, where the weather was not the only thing that hardened him. The only other NBA players to ever come out of the state have been Carlos Boozer and Trajan Langdon. "Being out there, people don't come out there to see players, so I always had a chip on my shoulder," said Chalmers, who grew up in Anchorage. "I had to prove to everybody else that I could play and that I belonged. I've always been that player that's never been shaken by anything." There were few on the court that might be able to make that claim. Perhaps Derek Fisher, who distinguished himself with the Lakers by delivering clutch shots. But the two best players on the court Tuesday were James, who had 26 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds and two steals, and Westbrook, who carried Oklahoma City almost through force of will, forcing his way into gaps in the defense and scoring 43 points. But Westbrook, like James until this season, struggled for the second game in a row to maintain his poise at key moments. He fouled Chalmers with 13.8 seconds left after a jump ball, when only 1.5 seconds remained on the shot clock and Oklahoma City trailed by three. Westbrook also squandered any shred of hope the Thunder had when he fumbled the ball away with 8.8 seconds left. The Heat then dribbled out the clock. There were no such plays for Chalmers. "Mario has that thing called heart," Wade said. "No matter what, no matter how tough we are on him, he actually thinks he's the best player on this team, and that's a gift and a curse. Tonight it was a gift for us because he never gets down on himself. He always believes. 'Find me, I can make a shot. I can make a play.'" And so Chalmers did, delivering when his teammates needed him, and delivering the Heat to the brink of a championship.
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

WATCH: Bubba Watson's caddie owns heckler at PGA Championship

NFL denies sending Donald Trump letter about schedule

Michael Bennett calls out NFL stars for not speaking up on social matters

Nationals make astute move in acquiring Melancon

Son of former NFL player Antonio Armstrong charged with death of parents


U.S. Senator “appalled” by Bettman’s stance on concussions

Team USA’s Opening Ceremony uniforms look a little treasonous

Lawyer who reps concussion lawsuit wants to speak with Bettman

Tyler Eifert says he will never play in the Pro Bowl again

Australian athletes evacuate the Olympic village after fire

Russian weightlifting team banned from Rio

Texans GM 'disappointed' in DeAndre Hopkins

Can Andre Johnson end his regression in Tennessee?

Favre opens up about painkiller addiction during career

Miami women’s basketball coach criticizes Texas A&M following slideshow

Twin Cities preparing for influx of sex trafficking during Super Bowl LII

WATCH: Bautista bat flip will be available as NHL 17 celebration

Former USMNT, current MLS forward Davies battled cancer, in remission

The definitive guide to U.S. Men's Basketball at Rio 2016

Tony Romo training camp picture leads to fat jokes, concern

Matt Cullen’s family eats cereal out of the Stanley Cup

Texas A&M suspends coaches for sexist slideshow

10 most dangerous college football defenders in 2016

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Dr. Phil calls out the Patriots for their cheating ways

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker