Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
LeBron James wasn't the reason why the Miami Heat won Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night.
How could he be? He wasn't even on the floor for the final minute.
Dwyane Wade didn't win it for the Heat either.
Neither did Chris Bosh.
And no, Russell Westbrook didn't lose the game for the Oklahoma City Thunder, despite his ill-advised foul in the game's closing seconds (remember, he still scored a team-high 43 points).
No, the reason why Miami is one game away from capturing its second NBA title is Mario Chalmers.
We knew Chalmers had the "clutch gene" in him before he even made it to the NBA.
Back in 2008 when he was playing for the University of Kansas, Chalmers sank a desperation three-pointer with 2.1 seconds left to send the National Championship game into overtime. His free throws with 45 seconds left in overtime clinched the game for the Jayhawks.
Chalmers was at it again Tuesday night on the world's biggest basketball stage. His 25 points (a playoff career-high for the 26-year-old) helped erase a 17- point first half deficit for the Heat and helped carry them to a 104-98 victory.
The fourth-year point guard was at his best in the fourth quarter when the stakes were highest. After going 5-for-10 with 13 points in the game's first 36 minutes, Chalmers turned it into overdrive in the last 12, exploding for 12 points on 4-5 shooting.
Chalmers' full arsenal was on display Tuesday night. He finished at the rim, he knocked down highly contested mid-range and three-point jumpers, he rattled home clutch free throws. He even came away with two steals, a team-high.
This season marks Chalmers' fourth trip to the playoffs and so far, it's been his best one yet. After tallying just 7.8 ppg during Miami's run to the Eastern Conference championship in 2010-11, Chalmers has followed up that performance with 11.4 ppg in this postseason.
Chalmers has scored 20 points or more in three of the Heat's 22 playoff games this postseason. He only did that twice in 64 regular season starts.
But are a few breathtaking performances enough to propel Chalmers, a player who has averaged only 8.3 ppg in 289 career games, into fantasy relevance?
In this case, the answer is no.
For every game Chalmers has excelled in this postseason, there have been just as many times where he has gone invisible.
Chalmers' offense was nonexistent in Games 2 and 3 against Oklahoma City. In those two games combined, Chalmers registered only five points on 2-for-15 shooting (13.3 percent).
In Miami's opening round series versus the New York Knicks, Chalmers reached double-digit points in four out of the five games but since then, he's hit double-figures just seven times in 17 games.
Though Chalmers is scoring more than he did in the regular season (11.4 ppg compared to 9.8), his shooting statistics have actually gone down in almost every area. His free throw percentage this postseason has fallen to 70.7 percent (he was at 79.2 percent during the regular season), his three-point shooting has dropped to 35.2 percent (38.8 percent in the regular season) and his overall shooting percentage is about the same (44.1 in the playoffs versus 44.8 in the regular season).
Part of Chalmers' spike in scoring can be attributed to increased playing time. He is averaging 35.7 minutes per game during the postseason, which is over seven minutes per game more than he was on the court during the regular season.
I'm not denying that Chalmers is a solid young player with lots of potential. On some squads, Chalmers might be a 15 ppg scorer. But unless he ends up taking his talents to somewhere other than South Beach, Chalmers' fantasy stock will always be hindered by the fact that he is playing alongside James, Bosh and Wade.
Like Westbrook, Derrick Rose and countless other guards in this league, Chalmers is a volume scorer. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It just means that in order for Chalmers to succeed, he needs a lot of shots.
But with the trio of James, Bosh and Wade combining for over 50 shots per game, that doesn't leave a whole lot of chances for everyone else. Because of this, Chalmers didn't even finish in the top-30 point guards in field goal attempts per game this season.
Succeeding in a "Big Three" atmosphere isn't unheard of. Rajon Rondo was an afterthought at the beginning of Boston's Big Three era but now he's the most fantasy relevant player on the Celtics' roster.
The difference here is that Rondo succeeds statistically because he's a distributor. With Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and this year Brandon Bass all capable of putting up big scoring numbers, Rondo became an assist machine in 2011-12 (league-leading 11.7 apg).
Chalmers plays a much different role for the Heat than Rondo does for the Celtics. He's a point guard in name only and is mostly known for his long-range shooting. If Chalmers was a pass-first point guard, he'd probably have a field day in Miami but as his 3.5 apg during the regular season show, that's not the case.
Because defenders gravitate towards James, Bosh and Wade, in theory this would result in fewer contested shots for Chalmers. But when you're only getting seven or eight shots per game like Chalmers is, it doesn't matter who's covering you. Even if Chalmers makes most of his shots, that still only accounts for 10-12 points. In fantasy, 10-12 points a night is barely enough to warrant a bench spot in most leagues, especially when you're as poor a rebounder (2.8 rpg) and assist man as Chalmers is.
Chalmers is a strong scorer with a flair for the dramatic but he's doomed for fantasy mediocrity while he's with the Heat. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, I think the taste of winning an NBA championship should keep Chalmers in a Miami uniform for a long time.