Chris Bosh is a five-time All-Star, a former top-five NBA Draft Pick and a member of the 2008 Gold Medal USA National Team. He is a career 20-point scorer and has one of the best inside/outside games of any forward in the NBA.
And yet, the Miami Heat are better without him.
This, of course, has far more to do with the dynamic duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade than it does Bosh. It’s not Bosh’s fault that Miami has thrived in their last four playoff games without him, going 4-0 and winning games by an average of 16.5 points. It’s not his fault that James and Wade have put on a two-man show at both ends of the court, looking nearly invincible at certain points.
Or is it?
After Bosh went down with an abdominal strain (a strange enough injury by itself, which has rightfully called Bosh’s toughness into question), Miami was able to hold on to win Game 1 against Indiana. However, the Heat went on to lose a closely contested Game 2 in Miami before getting blown out of Conseco Fieldhouse (or whatever it’s called now) 94-75 in Game 3.
You may remember that as the game Wade went 2-for-13 from the field for a measly five points, and Mario Chalmers (huh?) led the Heat in scoring with 25. After the game, almost every aspect of Wade’s game was called into question (now he knows how LeBron must feel), and the Heat were deemed to be dead in the water by some. (I may or may not have written a corresponding article myself. Oops.)
What was the problem? Was Wade hurt? Was Bosh really the glue that kept the team together? After all, Miami went 14-3 without Wade during the regular season, but only 4-5 without Bosh.
The truth of the matter is it took James and Wade about eight quarters to adjust to life without Chris Bosh and they haven’t looked back since, with the aforementioned four-game pummeling of Indiana and now Boston. It just took a little time; it is as simple as that.
As far as I can see, there are two areas to focus on as to why James and Wade have been so successful since Game 4 of the Pacers series. The first is statistics.
1. Statistically Speaking
It is never easy to lose a player who averaged 18.0 points and 7.9 rebounds a game during the regular season, as Bosh did. But since Miami is primarily a three-man band, the Big Three are going to put up numbers.
I mean, someone has to score, right? The question is how efficiently they are doing it. The most respected basketball statistic that quantifies player efficiency is John Hollinger’s PER rating.
LeBron James led the league in PER this season at 30.8. Wade was third in the NBA at 26.37. Chris Bosh, on the other hand, finished with a PER of 18.94. That was good enough for 48th in the league, among the likes of Roy Hibbert, Serge Ibaka, Chris Anderson, Thaddeus Young and Anderson Varejao.
Those players are all respectable in their own right, but none would be considered a superstar (or a star for that matter), let alone qualify for “Big Three” membership.
However, Bosh is viewed as an elite talent, and therefore is more involved offensively than he should be. Despite being the 48th most efficient player in the league, Bosh was 30th in shot attempts per game at 14.2.
Here are just a few of the players who averaged fewer shots per game during the regular season than Bosh: Amar’e Stoudamire (13.9), Dwight Howard (13.4), Andrew Bynum (13.3), Kevin Garnett (13.0) and Tim Duncan (12.6).
With James and Wade on his team, there is no reason that Chris Bosh should be taking more shots than any of the other players listed above. Bosh should be the ultimate compliment to “The King” and “Flash.”
But perhaps I am being too hasty, as Bosh could be creating his own shot, primarily off of offensive rebounds and put backs.
However (and predictably), that is not the case for Bosh either. His 7.9 RPG this season were good enough for 26th in the NBA (trailing Howard, Bynum, Duncan and Garnett). Worse yet, Bosh’s 1.6 Offensive RPG ranked 58th in the league, trailing rebounding stalwarts like Tony Allen, Rudy Gay and Drew Gooden (he’s still in the league?).
All of this information simply tells us that Chris Bosh is not excelling on the glass, and is taking a lump-sum of shots that may be better served being taken by more efficient players.
Of course, Bosh just happens to have two of the three most efficient players in the NBA on his team. Weird.
Throwing out Games 2 and 3 of the Indiana series as our so-called “PBAP” (Post Bosh Adjustment Period), the numbers for James and Wade have been ridiculous by any standard.
James Regular Season: 27.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 6.2 APG, 53%/36%/77% (FG, 3PT, FT)
James Last Four Playoff Games: 32.5 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 6.8 APG, 56%/20%/77% (FG, 3PT, FT)
Wade Regular Season: 22.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 4.6 APG, 49%/28%/69% (FG, 3PT, FT)
Wade Last Four Playoff Games: 30.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 4.5 APG, 62%/60%/67% (FG, 3PT, FT)
It is awe-inspiring for two teammates to put up those kinds of numbers in the playoffs, especially when opponents know those are really the only two options the team has.
LeBron is averaging more points, rebounds and assists than he did during his MVP-winning campaign and is shooting a higher percentage to boot.
Wade has dramatically increased his scoring and is shooting at a 13 percent higher clip than he did in the regular season.
Each has scored 40 or more points in one of the last four games and neither has shot less than 50 percent in any of those contests.
That’s how you win in the playoffs.
2. The Eye Test
As much as you can get from looking at a stat sheet, sometimes watching a game gives you all the information you need. Seeing James and Wade the past four games has been a pleasure for any pure basketball fan. Anyone who says otherwise is just, as the kids say, being a hater.
Using the fourth quarter in Sunday Night’s Game 1 against the Boston Celtics as a microcosm, James and Wade have been in complete control. Of the 21 points the Heat posted in the final frame, James and Wade either scored or assisted on 17 of them. They each drew fouls to get to the line, preventing any late surges by the Celtics. They played lock-down defense on Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo as well. James and Wade were both fearless in repeatedly attacking the rim, and in one sequence both hit nearly impossible-looking fade away jumpers after hard drives to the hoop. The victory was sealed long before the final horn sounded thanks to the 2-on-5 display put on by LeBron and D-Wade.
In my opinion their effectiveness was predicated upon the fact that each superstar knew all they had were each other. Mike Miller, Shane Battier and Joel Anthony are not going to win an NBA title for your team. James and Wade know this and used their immense skill and intellect to take over each of the Heat’s last four games.
Chris Bosh is not going to win an NBA title for your team either, but sometimes it feels like the dynamic duo of James and Wade forget that. They defer to Bosh and let him take shots in the fourth quarter.
There are not enough balls to go around when you have two players who can dominate a game like James and Wade if there is a third mini-ego trying to “get his” (and Bosh has griped several times in the last two years about his involvement in the offense).
However, without Bosh on the floor these past few games, you saw the fire and passion in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade’s eyes. They are superstars. We know it. They know it. For someone who craves to see great players play great like I do, it has been a delight to watch.
I only hope it continues. If that means Chris Bosh has to remain on the sidelines, then so be it.