Caleb Martin is nowhere to be found.
After playing arguably the best basketball of his career during the Eastern Conference Finals, the Miami Heat forward has significantly regressed during the NBA Finals, and Stephen A. Smith couldn’t let that slide Thursday on ESPN’s “First Take.”
“Where the hell are you?” Smith asked. “I like Caleb … I like Caleb a lot, but he has been a virtual no-show in these Finals, and considering the way he performed so exceptionally well in the Eastern Conference Finals… it’s clearly a precipitous drop-off since Denver has arrived. And I don’t understand why that is. We need to see him do significantly more.”
During the Eastern Conference Finals, Martin averaged 19 points and six rebounds on a ridiculous 60 percent from the field and nearly 50 percent from 3, which included a 26-point, 10-rebound performance to close out the Celtics in Game 7.
In fact, Martin was only one vote away from winning the Eastern Conference Finals MVP, so it was only natural to expect him to continue his stellar play in the Finals against the Denver Nuggets.
Caleb Martin has struggled in the NBA Finals after stepping up in the first three rounds of the playoffs.Getty Images
Through three games, however, the homegrown 27-year-old is averaging a subpar five points, four rebounds, and an assist per night and shooting 34 percent from the field.
With Heat guard Tyler Herro still out with a broken right hand, Martin assumed a lot of the secondary scoring responsibility in Miami’s playoff run, scoring in double digits in 15 postseason games and reaching 20 or more points four times.
In the previous three rounds, the teams focused primarily on Heat stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, leaving Martin and others opportunities to score, but Denver has enough disciplined and solid defenders to keep the likes of Martin at bay.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith criticized Martin as a ‘no-show’ through three games in the Finals.Getty Images
And it’s worked – outside of an eight-point run in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, the forward has been relatively anemic offensively.
Martin will get another chance to redeem himself on Friday night in Game 4 in front of a home crowd at the Kaseya Center.