'Basketball Gods' shine on Heat's Battier
MIAMI (Reuters) - Shane Battier, benched earlier in the playoffs, delivered a masterclass in three-point shooting for the Miami Heat, playing a vital role in their 95-88 win in the NBA Finals on Thursday.
Battier made a postseason, career-high six three-point field goals as he scored 18 - his highest points total in a playoff game in four years.
"Reports of my demise were premature," said a grinning Battier, who did not feature at all in the crunch Game Seven of the Eastern Conference final against the Indiana Pacers.
Averaging just four points per game in this year's playoffs, Battier was certainly not expected to have 28 minutes on court in Game Seven - more than he played in the first four games of the Finals.
"The basketball gods - I believe in basketball gods and I felt they owed me big-time. I had a bunch of shots in San Antonio that went in and out," he said.
"I know I am a better shooter than my numbers put up. A lot goes into it - I thought I had some open looks in the last two games and when I have open looks, I expect to make them - and I did," he said.
Battier's performance mirrored that of Mike Millers in last season's title-clinching game when he scored seven three-pointers to sink the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The display left Heat coach Erik Spoelstra praising the perfect attitude Battier took to being left out of the action.
"He was smart enough to know that sometimes it is about match-ups and in a series things change. But he is 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 and that's not a coincidence. He has something running through those veins that separates him, makes him a little bit different as a champion."
It was a Battier three, early in the third quarter that gave Miami a four-point cushion, setting the tone for the second half and igniting the crowd and another of his trademark long-range baskets that made it 88-82.
Dwyane Wade, who claimed his third NBA championship with Miami, having been part of the 2006 title-winning team, said Battier's display epitomized the way in which the Heat's supporting cast had made a key contribution.
"In Game Six it was Ray Allen with the big shot and obviously last year Mike Miller had an unbelievable performance," he said.
"Shane hadn't hit a shot since I don't know when but tonight he was unconscious. He's just a big-time player. You want that for Shane so bad.
"He is going to go down as one of my favorite team-mates of all time just by being the guy that he is.
"And we needed it. We needed every inch of what everybody gave".
(Editing by Ian Ransom)