Moments after making his way out of the Heat’s champagne-soaked locker room early Friday morning, Shane Battier strode through the AmericanAirlines Arena and made his way onto the podium for the traditional post-game press conference.
There, the sharp-shooting veteran didn’t even bother to wait for a question.
“Reports of my demise were premature,” a smiling Battier said after the Heat clinched their second straight NBA title and third overall championship with a 95-88 win over San Antonio in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. “That’s my opening statement.”
For Battier, the Heat’s playoff run has been an exercise in futility, patience, and perseverance.
He was benched during the Eastern Conference Finals against Indiana, and described the experience as a “turd sandwich.” He saw his minutes slashed from nearly 25 in the Heat’s opening-round sweep of Milwaukee to a little over 12 in the Finals against the Spurs.
He shot just 12.5 percent from the field against the Pacers, and finished the postseason shooting a meager 29 percent.
But when the stakes were at their highest, Battier made it nearly impossible for Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to take him off the floor.
He came into Game 7 with 3:45 left in the first quarter and within minutes, converted on a pair of 3-pointers.
He finished with 18 points, making a postseason career-high six shots from beyond the arc.
It was Battier’s highest-scoring postseason game with the Heat and his highest scoring postseason game since May 2009 when he had 23 with Houston against the Lakers.
Suddenly, Battier’s struggles disappeared and his performance was reminiscent of Mike Miller’s 3-point shooting heroics in last year’s Finals against Oklahoma City.
“I felt good the last couple of games,” said Battier, who played nearly 29 minutes in the win. “And I made a couple of threes last game, and so I felt really confident tonight. I knew that our starters were going to be pretty tired after Game 6. It was an emotionally and physically draining game. I only played 12 minutes [Tuesday,] so I felt great.”
Said Spoelstra, “You have to be absolutely pure at heart about [playing time] and not get caught up in a dilemma. He was smart enough to know that sometimes, it’s about matchups, series things change. But he’s so important to what we do that eventually, he would get his chance again. When he did, he made the most of it. The guy has won at every single level, high school, college, pro. It’s not a coincidence. He has something running through those veins that separates him, makes him a little bit different as a champion.”
But Battier’s memorable performance wasn’t limited to the offensive side.
He finished with four rebounds, a steal, and matched up against San Antonio center Tim Duncan late when the Spurs veteran missed a shot that would have tied the game at 90 with just over 30 seconds left.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think I affected the shot that much,” Battier said. “I was just trying to make him shoot over the top. And that’s a shot Tim Duncan usually makes eight out of ten times. For whatever reason, that shot didn’t drop right then.”
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