The Miami Heat may have felt as though they had something to prove all season long, but lately Erik Spoelstra's club has proven far more than it ever planned.
With power forward Chris Bosh sidelined since an untimely abdominal strain in Game 1 of the team's second-round series against the Indiana Pacers, the Heat relied on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to pick up the slack despite already having plenty on their to-do lists.
The quintessential Plan B scenario has tested James' defensive versatility and has required Wade to establish himself as every bit the dominant scorer he was in the days preceding the arrival of his superstar accomplices.
So far, so good for the quite literally dynamic duo.
The Heat rolled through their last three games against the Pacers, winning the contests by a combined 52 points. Thus far, it appears they'll be asked to keep it up in the Eastern Conference finals against the playoff-tested Boston Celtics.
Coach Spoelstra may be hoping for the best, but he's still planning for the worst (via ESPN's Michael Wallace):
"He's doing a little bit more, [but] he's still indefinite," Spoelstra said of Bosh. "For me, it's my responsibility right now to prepare this team without him. If and when we get to a point when he starts to emerge into the picture, we'll gladly deal with that. For our mental state of health -- and I'd love to [get] Chris -- but our preparation is without him."
Of course, Spoelstra doesn't really have much choice in the matter, but he deserves plenty of credit for putting his remaining stars in a position to succeed.
It once seemed that Indiana's inside presence would give them a fighting chance against the Heat's thin interior rotation—Miami was ostensibly ill-equipped to stop the likes of power forward David West and center Roy Hibbert. Though the Celtics lack a center with Hibbert's size, one might assume Kevin Garnett poses the same kind of problems.
Unfortunately for Boston, though, Garnett has been reduced to a jump shooter as of late, albeit a very good one. The 36-year-old averaged nearly 20 points in seven second-round games against the Philadelphia 76ers, but he wasn't an especially dominant presence inside.
If a guy like Elton Brand could push Garnett off his preferred spots in the post, there's no reason to believe the likes of James and Udonis Haslem won't be able to do the same. The Heat's platoon of KG-stoppers may be a bit undersized, but they will certainly have the quickness and strength to frustrate him.
More importantly, the Heat aren't especially interested in playing the kind of half-court game in which Garnett might excel.
James and Wade combined to average nearly 66 points in their final three games against the Pacers. That elite production emerged in large part because of Miami's ability to force an up-tempo game with regular opportunities to get out and run in transition.
Miami's ability to swarm teams on the defensive end has made opposing size something of a moot point. For all of the Celtics' experience and championship pedigree, Doc Rivers' aging lineup may very well struggle to keep up if the Heat continue to force the action.
And, for all the production Bosh brings to Miami's lineup, the club's remaining Big Two should be just fine so long as they continue to do exactly what they've been doing.
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