In Game 1 of these NBA Finals, I was on the precipice of disgust with Tyson Cleotis Chandler. The man finished nine points and four rebounds, and was generally outplayed by nine other players for each of the 34 minutes he pretended to play basketball in the inaugural game of the series. He allowed Miami’s big three to completely control the game from what should be his domain. The Wade-James-Bosh collective brought in 28 rebounds and made 10 of 19 shots inside the paint. They challenged Chandler from the opening tip and the man failed to respond, leading to the only game this series that didn’t end as a one-possession game.
Fast-forward to Game Four, and Chandler has suddenly become the key to this series. In Games Two and Three, Chandler’s rebound totals increased to seven and 11, respectively. And in Game Four, he finished with an extremely respectable 16 rebounds. He’s increased his defensive intensity and was a part of the subtle change in game plan that suddenly got the Mavericks offense going. Not to say that the man completely played like his size would naturally dictate (that Dwyane Wade block immediately comes to mind), but he’s begun to leave his mark on these games, which will be huge for Dallas going forward.
As Game Four progressed, so did Chandler’s inept ability to singularly pick apart Miami on the boards. By the start of the second quarter, Chandler was figuring out how to use his body to gain position on Miami big men. Four of his rebounds directly resulted in Miami fouls from Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem. He started cleaning up some of those defensive rebounds that Miami was using to keep themselves in the game despite shooting right around 30 percent in the first half.
By the fourth quarter he was using his Stretch Armstrong-esque upper limbs to grab some of the high arching boards that careened off the iron rim from misguided three point attempts to secure extra possessions in the waning minutes of the game. On the ones he couldn’t grab, he was tipping out to the perimeter, securing coveted extra possessions.
Tyson Chandler is (obviously) not the most gifted offensive big man we’ve seen, but he’s been increasing his propensity to do the dirty work Dallas is going to need to win this series. Ultimately, he’s going to have to complete some of the dunks he missed, he’s going to have to put in some of those tip-ins around the rim, and he’s going to have to play four quarters with the intensity and dedication to the glass that he did in Game Four’s fourth quarter if Dallas is going to take two of these final three games.
But after Game Four, I have to salute Tyson Chandler. He picked up some extra minutes with Brendon Haywood physically incapable to eat up some time on the floor and worked hard in each and every one of those minutes. He’s now giving Dallas a chance at success, because four rebounds from your starting center just isn’t going to cut it against this Miami team. Naturally, there’s a whole lot more Dallas is going to need going into Game Five, but their title hopes seem to be relying on how Chandler performs.
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