Gamechangers for Miami, San Antonio besides LeBron, Duncan - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

NBA Finals: Heat, Spurs rely on more than 'Big 3'

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The Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade (3) and LeBron James (6) will need help from their teammates to get by the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. (Source: Keith Allison/Flickr) The Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade (3) and LeBron James (6) will need help from their teammates to get by the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. (Source: Keith Allison/Flickr)

(RNN) – At this point, everyone with any interest in the NBA Finals knows LeBron James and Tim Duncan. It's time the guys behind them get some love, too.

As the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs prepare to kick off this year's championship series Thursday, the narrative of the two superstars has been examined at length.

James – recognized as the best player in the game today – can build his legacy with a second straight title. Duncan – maybe the greatest power forward ever – can cement his legacy with a fourth ring 14 years after winning his first.

Nearly as popular are the players who make up the remainder of the two teams' "Big 3s." Swingman Manu Ginobili and point guard Tony Parker make the Spurs' high-speed offense go by distributing the ball, hitting perimeter shots and slashing to the basket.

Extra kudos to Ginobili for rocking the Friar Tuck look.

NBA Finals: San Antonio vs. Miami, Game 1 – 9 p.m. ET Thursday

Shooting guard Dwyane Wade and PF Chris Bosh both have shown the ability to score in bunches and step up should the Heat's top option have an off night.

Keep an eye out for Bosh, a practiced photobomber, in postgame interviews as well.

But what about the rest of the supporting cast? In a best-of-seven series, it's more than likely somebody who isn't a household name will come through with a gamechanging performance.

Here's a look at six more players who may grab some attention, for one reason or another:

Ray Allen, Miami Heat

Postseason averages: 23.8 minutes, 10 points, three rebounds, 1.7 3-pointers.

No. 34 knows what it's like to be part of a Big 3. He joined Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Boston to form a nucleus that won the 2008 title and went to another Finals in 2010.

Now 37, Allen has taken on a supporting role in Miami. Still, no one in the history of the NBA has hit more 3-pointers than he has, and he can change a game from beyond the arc.

Patty Mills, San Antonio Spurs

2.4 minutes, 1.1 points, 0.3 assists.

No. 8 may not play one minute this series. But the bench "hype man" for San Antonio did lift weights with Paul McCartney once and perfected the art of towel waving.

The Aussie export keeps the energy high and the mood light on the sidelines – something that can provide a lift with the intense playoffs atmosphere.

Chris "Birdman" Andersen, Miami Heat

15.5 minutes, 83 percent shooting, 7.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.3 blocks

He's the guy with hair like a cockatoo who likes to fly through the air and grab rebounds. When he does well, he sticks his arms out like he's flying.

If you're still not sure which one he is, the "FREEBIRD" tattoo across his neck should narrow it down.

Signed midway through the season, Andersen gave Miami some toughness down low. He's also been hyper-efficient, getting most of his points off rebounds and within three feet of the basket.

Matt Bonner, San Antonio Spurs

16.5 minutes per game, 50 percent on 3-pointers, 2.3 rebounds.

No. 15, at 6'10", continues the proud tradition of "Big and Tall 3-point Specialist" for the Spurs – past incarnations included Danny Ferry and Robert Horry.

The strategy revolves around the guy standing still in the far corner of the court, waiting until the other team forgets about him, and then somebody passes him the ball for a wide-open shot. It works more than you would think.

Bonner also is a solid rebounder and gives the Spurs another big body they can throw at the other team's top post player, keeping teammates out of foul trouble.

Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

37.1 minutes, 13 points, 57 percent shooting, eight rebounds, 1.6 steals.

No. 2 has become one of the more complete players in the NBA during his second season. His ascendance played a significant role in getting the Spurs back to this point for the first time since 2007.

He can score, rebound, run the floor, steal the ball and play one-on-one defense at a high level. That last one will be put to the test the next two to three weeks – he'll be heads up with LeBron.

Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat

26.8 minutes, 8.9 points, 3.5 assists, 1 steal

No. 15 is the only Heat guy not named James or Wade who can beat someone off the dribble consistently. He's also a tough defender who can drive the opposing point guard crazy and cause turnovers.

He falls down a lot, though. The Heat and the Spurs are both notorious for flopping – acting like they've been fouled – and Chalmers may be the worst offender on either team.

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