Miami Heat: Will Chris Bosh Injury Postpone LeBron's NBA Title Quest?

John Friel@@JohnFtheheatgodAnalyst IMay 17, 2012

MIAMI, FL - MAY 15: Joel Anthony #50, Mario Chalmers #15, LeBron James #6, Shane Battier #31, and Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat talk during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the Indiana Pacers at AmericanAirlines Arena on May 15, 2012 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

You would think the people of Miami would be a little bit more calm and collected in the face of adversity.

Instead of taking the Heat's Game 2 loss in stride, they took the streets and clamored for the head of either LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Erik Spoelstra or any other player's name they actually know.

What they didn't realize is that there are three games left to win for both sides. Game 2 was one game. While we expect win after win after witnessing what LeBron and Dwyane are capable of, we also need to realize that the postseason is a long and enduring process where a championship is won over the course of a few weeks, and not decided by a game in the semifinals.

The knee-jerk reactions are getting old. Everyone blew their top when the Heat started 9-8 last year; they overreacted over a five-game losing streak in the regular season; they thought the big three should have been broken up after that Game 1 loss to the Bulls in last year's conference finals.

Don't listen to the talking heads, and just remember what this Heat team is capable of before jumping to conclusions.

Learn from your mistakes, people. Championships are won over time, not in Game 2 of the semifinals. The Miami Heat are a completely different team than last year. They have a stronger mindset, a clearer direction that reflects the overall outlook of the team and the idea to have fun and not play with anger or hatred. They're proving something to themselves instead of attempting to prove somebody wrong.

Chris Bosh's injury was as devastating a blow as the Miami Heat could receive at this point of the season.

It's tough enough to lose a player of Bosh's caliber at the start of the semifinals, but it's even more significant when you consider the opponent. The Indiana Pacers are a well-balanced team with a physical, robust frontcourt that could easily take advantage of the Heat's already weak standing when it comes to their front line.

Losing Bosh meant losing their lone scorer who could make an impact down low. His versatility as a jump shooter allowed him to stretch the floor and take either Roy Hibbert or David West out of the paint, while his quick feet made life a nightmare for opposing power forwards and centers who usually don't have the quickness or agility that Bosh possesses.

With that ability to stretch the floor, he opens up the lane for James and Wade to work with. The Heat managed to survive the second half of Game 1 without Bosh thanks to herculean efforts by the dynamic duo. However, the Pacers made their adjustments in Game 2 to limit those two as much as possible and make entering the lane a task.

Throw in the fact that the Heat shooters couldn't hit the ocean from a boat, and it's obvious to see why this team lost. Without Bosh, the lane becomes more compact with defenders, perimeter players find it more difficult to get open, and the pick-and-roll becomes useless when the only big men who can run it effectively are Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf.

When the Heat ran that pick-and-roll with Anthony and Turiaf, whoever was defending those two would simply stay on Wade or James. If you have Bosh run that pick-and-roll, the defender has to take him into account in order not to give up a high-percentage shot near the rim or a jump shot. Instead, you have two defenders focusing on whoever initiated the play while Anthony and Turiaf go unaccounted for.

The Heat are facing adversity, but does that mean it's time to climb to the top of the Freedom Tower and jump? Not at all. It's one game, and quite possibly the worst game the Miami Heat have played all year. Dwyane's mid-range game has become just as bad as Udonis Haslem's, LeBron suddenly forgot how to shoot free throws, and those two got absolutely no help from anyone else.

James finished with 28 points, Wade finished with 24, and the rest of the team finished with a combined 23 points. That's eight different players combining for a grand total of 23 points on shooting nine-of-34 from the field. Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier were tied for the third most points on the team with five apiece.

Battier only took two shots, but Chalmers needed 10 attempts, including the potential three-pointer that would have tied the game at the buzzer.

Chalmers was fouled without a call, but the Heat should have never let it come down to that. Wade shouldn't be getting so frustrated that he nearly gets himself thrown out of the game; James shouldn't be missing half of his eight free throws in the fourth quarter; and the entire team as a whole must do better than shooting one-of-16 from deep.

This comes a game after they shot a collective 0-of-6 from deep. By this point, it should be in the best interest of coach Erik Spoelstra to shut down Mike Miller and give James Jones his minutes. Miller is providing absolutely nothing, despite making the fourth most amount of money on this team. He's not creating space, not shooting the ball well and is even hesitant to shoot when he is open.

Let Jones get those shots. Even if he misses, he's at least trying and causing the defense to have a reaction at the threat of a perimeter shooter.

Once again, the shooters not getting as open as they'd like falls on Bosh not being on the floor. It's so much more than him just being able to attract the attention of a defender—something that Anthony, Turiaf and Haslem can't do. It's also the passing of Bosh, the attention he commands down low and that uncanny ability to shoot that always keeps defenders on their toes.

When Bosh is on the floor, opposing defenses will always have to keep his perimeter game in check. He's arguably the best mid-range shooter in the league for a player his size next to Dirk Nowitzki, and opponents know this. When Bosh gets that ball along the perimeter, his defender has to play him a certain way. It's pick-your-poison, as you either have to play close and deny the jumper or play off and deny the drive.

This helps the shooters because it's not only one less defender not focusing on the perimeter, but it also opens the floor up. Because when Bosh has the ball up top, it leaves the lane open for the drives of Wade and James. When those two get to driving, you need to begin packing the paint. When you pack the paint, that's where the shooters get open.

Everybody works off of each other, and that's how a team works. Wade and James know how to play with each other on the court, but they obviously can't perform as well when the team's third best player isn't playing. The defense collapses on them without having to worry about the prospect of giving up a mid-range jumper to a power forward who can get incredibly hot if given a few open jumpers.

However, this still gives you no room to worry. The Pacers made their adjustment in Game 2, and now it's time for the Heat to make their adjustment in Game 3. A loss in Game 2 shouldn't have come as a surprise. We all should have known that the Pacers were going to throw everything they had at Wade and James. They exploited the key weakness, and they still needed a few missed free throws to win.

Going into Game 3, it's time for the Heat to make their adjustment. Spoelstra may not be a Coach of the Year candidate, but he knows how to make adjustments, and he knows how well his team plays when their backs are against the wall. This is an extremely resilient team that adores the idea of taking on a challenge like the one it's going to be facing over the coming weeks.

The key for the rest of this series is getting the shooters open and allowing them to get into a rhythm. The only way to get your shooters open is if they're Ray Allen and can create their own open shots or through-ball movement. The Heat don't have a Ray Allen or a Richard Hamilton, so they're going to have to make their shooters get open through the process of ball and player movement.

Open shots just don't happen. You can't just throw a shooter on the court, hope he gets open a few times and just live on that. We saw what happens to the teams that have shooters like that in the playoffs; it doesn't work. Look at how ineffective the Heat made Steve Novak look last series. That occurred because the Knicks didn't move the ball well, and the Heat defense was too athletic.

The Pacers aren't that athletic of a team. They're not going to cover the ground that the Miami Heat defense can cover. The Heat have to find a way to exploit that and begin to assert some sort of dominance on offense outside of James and Wade. Obviously, the Pacers are going to key in on those two when there's no need to worry about the perimeter shooters.

So the real question is how to get these shooters open when you're missing your most significant player in the series?

Ball and player movement for one. Nobody gets open by standing around. You need to move the ball around while having your players move around as well. It keeps the defense on their toes while keeping the offense unpredictable. If you run isolation after isolation, eventually defenses are going to wise up and start defending those isolations well.

That's what happened in Game 2, and it essentially caused the loss. You can't have LeBron and Dwyane take turns attempting to create a play. There are three other players on the court, and they have to do their part, as well. If the Heat brought LeBron James in to run isolations, they might as well have gotten rid of Wade while they're at it since they're completely defeating the purpose of having the two play off each other.

There's no established half-court offense to this Heat team, so it's absolutely essential that James, Wade or whichever player who is handling the ball at the time creates a play. Isolations involve one player. When has one player ever won anybody a championship? The Heat can't win if they just have James or Wade dribbling at the top of the perimeter while everyone stands aside and watches.

Those two are playing one-on-four, and it's not fair to them or their teammates. They have to find ways to get the role players involved. Take a look at a team like the San Antonio Spurs, who have somehow turned players like Danny Green, Gary Neal and Kawhi Leonard into stellar shooters and role players. They became that way because the offense is designed to keep them involved by letting them get their shots off.

Miami's defense is too centered around the idea of LeBron or Dwyane making everything happen. This is a team effort, and everybody has to do their part. That means more passing, more aggressive attempts to work the ball inside, frequent post-ups by Wade and James, and shooters making their shots, even if they are contested.

Miami took 16 three-pointers in Game 2 and they weren't all contested. This isn't just flaws in the design of the offense; it's also flaws in the players who can't do their job. It's shameful to watch Wade and James perform every last thing on the floor yet lose a game knowing that two three-pointers from Mike Miller or Mario Chalmers could have changed the result.

Bosh provided the Heat with a third crutch to rely on. It's become laughable how everybody has changed their opinion of Bosh from being a soft player who's afraid to play physical to the most essential and significant part of this Heat team. Give me a break. Chris Bosh is the same player we all knew him as; those critics weren't watching close enough.

Anytime you lose someone who contributes 18 points and eight rebounds per game, you're going to struggle. It was completely normal to see the Heat struggle and eventually lose that Game 2. They shouldn't be discouraged about it. If anything, they should be pleased that they only lost by three points, despite missing countless free throws and getting 23 points from eight different players.

The Heat won't get 23 points from eight players again. They're not missing 15 of their 16 three-pointers, and they're not going to keep missing free throws. Miami is still the better team in this series because they have the two best players on the court by a substantial margin.

LeBron won the MVP award for a reason, and that's because he's the best player in the league who can do things you won't see out of any other player. He's a smart enough player to make adjustments, and he's smart enough to understand what type of weapons and plans the Pacers are hatching to control him and the rest of this Heat team.

Bosh won't be coming back this series. This could be a blessing in disguise because it might actually require the Heat to learn how to move the ball without having to rely on Wade, James or Bosh to bail the team out. This is the time when your shooters begin to make their shots and when you create plays and situations where the defense has trouble defending them.

An efficient half-court offense is the only way the Heat win this. They can't have LeBron and Dwyane playing 45 minutes every night and doing everything on the court. Those two can't spoon-feed the points, passes, rebounds and defense to this team anymore. Without Bosh, this is the time when you finally get to see what your role players are made of.

A championship is far away, and so is the end of this series. If the Heat aren't panicking, then why should you? They know what they're made of, and they'll make the adjustments to counter what the Pacers dealt in Game 2. Look at the next few games as a chance to get to know the players you're not used to seeing or hearing from all the time.

Bosh's injury hasn't postponed anything; it's just given the Heat a new challenge to face.


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