Photo by Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Finals X-Factors: Marco Belinelli and Mario Chalmers

We know that Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will be key to this series. They are the stars and the guys that the Spurs and Heat will turn to game after game. The defenses will be locked in on these guys.

As it goes with every series, that means there is a hole that needs to be filled for the team that eventually gets the win. This is the X-Factor. The unsung hero that ensures the star gets his victory.

In last year’s series between the Spurs and Heat, Danny Green emerged from out of the shadows to make an NBA-record 27 3-pointers in the seven-game series. The first five games especially were his moment and his big moment in the sunshine. His unfortunate cold snap in Games Six and Seven played a big role in the Spurs collapse.

Who is primed to step up this time around? Jose Grijalva of Project Spurs selected Marco Belinelli as his X-factor for the Spurs, let him explain:

USATSI_7871957_164908624_lowres“The Spurs will look to an X-Factor role player and Marco Belinelli will be a prime candidate to fill that role. Although he’s only been averaging 5.7 points per game thispostseason, the Heat offer a favorable matchup for him unlike the Thunder. These are reasons to consider why Belinelli should have a great series in the Finals.

Pick and Roll: The Spurs’ pick and roll will work in favor of shooters because of the slower Miami defense looking to rotate. Last season the Spurs had only 2 guards who can run the pick and roll in Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. This season is different. San Antonio has individual offensive fire power they didn’t last Finals in Patty Mills to go along with Marco off the bench, and they can both handle the ball with a pick orspot up while a ball handler makes the defense scramble. Unlike Oklahoma City, the rotations will be slower if they decide to try to help against the pick and roll. The small Heat lineup will definitely be slower than what the Thunder brought to neutralize Belinelli.

Belinelli has struggled this postseason, but look for him to be a huge part in the Spurs’ run in the NBA Finals against the Heat. The slower Heat should play into Belinelli’s favor as he’s had a history of playing well against them and looking for his own redemption from last season’s playoffs as a member of the Chicago Bulls.”

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OK, so that is the Spurs’ perspective. Who could step up for the Heat?

MarioChalmersHeat_Wizards042112Mario Chalmers seems to be due for a good series. This postseason has not been one to write home about for Chalmers. He is averaging 7.1 points per game and 3.9 assists per game in 27.9 minutes per game. He is shooting 44.4 percent from the floor and 38.9 percent from beyond the arc.

Really, that 3-point shooting is why Chalmers gets the minutes he does. He has always had that “clutch” gene. LeBron James plays point guard most of the time and Chalmers is a player that needs to take advantage the opportunities he gets — just 6.0 field goal attempts per game this postseason — and make the defense pay.

San Antonio would love to make Chalmers beat them.

In last year’s Finals series against the Spurs, Chalmers averaged 10.6 points per game and shot 40.6 percent from beyond the arc. In Games Six and Seven, Chalmers scored 20 and 14 points and made four of five 3-pointers in Game Six. Chalmers was a big part of three of the Heat’s four wins in the series to take their second consecutive championship.

Really, we are looking at the (nominal) point guard spot for our Heat X-factor. Because Norris Cole could also need a big series.

The Heat have spent this entire postseason sort of mixing and matching whichever one of these two young guards is playing better. Cole was clearly that guy in the Eastern Conference Finals. Against the Pacers, Cole had 11 points in Game Two, nine points in Game Three and seven points in Game Four. That was pretty good for a player that rarely plays coming off the bench and it helped give Miami a major boost and lift off the bench, the team’s weakest point.

Someone is going to step up in this series and it very well could decide a game here or there. In a series that is expected to go at or near the distance, that could be all the difference.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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