The fear factor was undeniable entering last season's playoffs. Norris Cole was an untested backup rookie point guard, robbed of significant developmental opportunities because of the lockout.

The confidence factor entering the upcoming playoffs is undeniable. Exhibit A is Monday's 96-95 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, when Cole not only closed one assist shy of his first career triple-double, but also made the game-winning defensive stop with time expiring against 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving.

"I let him call probably over 50 percent of our play sheet, and he had a command of the game," said coach Erik Spoelstra, who gave point guard Mario Chalmers and the rest of his starters Monday off. "He had a command of his players out there on the court. When he came into the league, he did not have that tool set. But what he is, is diligent. He's dedicated. Every single day he works on it."

During last season's playoffs, the minutes were limited for Cole, partly because of Spoelstra's tighter postseason rotation, partly because of the rookie inconsistency exhibited by the 2012 first-round pick out of Cleveland State.

Yet on the eve of the upcoming first-round playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks, which opens this weekend at AmericanAirlines Arena, Spoelstra not only has renewed confidence in Cole, but apparently a postseason plan that will have a point guard on the court more often alongside the team's stars.