In so many NBA Finals, there is a player that helps tip the series in favor of his team that is completely unexpected. It could be an out of the box mismatch discovered by a coach in a late night film session, or sometimes it is a player that overcomes the adversity of an injury to play at an astonishing level with the highest stakes on the line.
Mike Miller became that player in the deciding Game 5 for the Heat by scoring 23 points while going 7-for-8 from three-point territory. Miami won the title because of the sheer, physical dominance of LeBron James, and complementary play of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers, but it was Miller’s shooting that truly put the game and series completely out of reach from the Thunder.
The theme of Miller’s tenure with the Heat has been the consistent succession of injuries.
Miller, one of the NBA's most affable players, had to wait until almost two months into the 10-11 season to even make his debut with Miami after tearing a ligament and fracturing his right thumb in an October practice guarding LeBron James.
When he did return, his shooting percentages dropped significantly and he suffered several head injuries. With Miller unable to contribute as the Heat envisioned when he signed in the aftermath of the Big 3 formation, his body unlikely to last for the duration of his five-year deal and the clear team need for a center, he surfaced in trade rumors for Brendan Haywood.
During the 2011 Playoffs, Miller played through an injured shoulder and his thumb injury that needed a second surgery.
Following the inclusion of an amnesty provision on the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement, Miller became an instant candidate. But the Heat decided not to use the amnesty on Miller, favoring a wait-and-see approach even a few days after he underwent sports hernia surgery. The procedure was the fourth time he had surgery during his tenure with the Heat.
Miller was unable to make his 11-12 debut until the middle of January due to the surgery and he unluckily injured his ankle in that very same game. Miller stayed in the lineup and continued to do so after injuring his right hand less than two weeks later.
Miller finally was knocked out of the lineup in March after 28 consecutive appearances when he sprained his right ankle.
All told, Miller has missed 71 games during his two regular seasons with the Heat.
Throughout the 2012 Playoffs, Miller was largely ineffective. He had a couple good shooting games in wins against the Knicks and Pacers, along with one decent outing in a Game 3 loss at Boston, but he was clearly not fit.
The Game 5 explosion was almost entirely unexpected when he played approximately 10 meaningless minutes over the previous three games. Miller was in the type of zone that even the purest of shooters rarely reach where he almost couldn't miss.
Miller now enters his second offseason with the Heat possessing a ring and facing a difficult decision of whether to retire or work hard on becoming fit enough to be that shooter Miami sought to spread the floor for James and Wade.
- This post is sponsored by Muscle Milk.