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NBA Playoffs 2013: Why Chris Bosh Is the X-Factor in Heat vs. Pacers

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NBA Playoffs 2013: Why Chris Bosh Is the X-Factor in Heat vs. Pacers
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Chris Bosh will make his presence known when the Eastern Conference Finals start Wednesday.

The member of the Miami Heat's "Big Three" has taken on the most criticism by far from the media and fans, who claim he is soft around the rim. But after Bosh went down with an abdominal injury in Game 1 of the Heat's Eastern Conference semi-final matchup with the Pacers in last year's playoffs, people wondered if Miami could compete without their third star.

It took superhuman efforts by both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to move the Heat into the Eastern Conference Finals, but this year Bosh is back and primed to contribute to Miami's championship run.

Yes, LeBron James is the face of this team; he is the best player in the world, after all. But while he's going to continue putting up numbers, Bosh will be the deciding factor on what the reigning NBA champions can do offensively.

The Indiana Pacers run a more traditional defense with two big men down low. While David West is the more skilled perimeter shooter, Roy Hibbert operates from the low block and isn't afraid to muck it up trying to crash the boards.

Hibbert is a huge threat around the rim, just ask Carmelo Anthony. He leads all NBA centers this postseason in offensive rebounds (55) and offensive rebounds per game (4.6) and is first among remaining centers in blocks per game (2.5). 

Now Bosh doesn't need to score more points in order for his team to win. His biggest contribution will come more from the perimeter and being able to drag Hibbert away from the rim.

The Pacers need Hibbert down low on defense to create shot blocking opportunities and alter opposing shot attempts. With the Heat's style of slash-and-kick, there will be numerous chances for Hibbert to swat away shots. James, Wade, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole can all use picks to drive to the basket, and without Bosh, Hibbert will be waiting for them.

The Heat love to play small ball on both sides of the court. They don't have a conventional center; they use Bosh at the five while James moves down to the power forward. That way the Heat can get more athleticism on the court and can use that to create turnovers and run up and down in transition with ease.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

With Bosh out there, it gives the Heat another shooter along the perimeter instead of a big center that takes up space in the middle. Bosh is more of a finesse forward that loves a mid-range jumper, like Kevin Garnett is with the Celtics.

Bosh has been a constant shooting threat in the 2013 playoffs. Even though he's scoring 13.2 points per game, he is making the most of his chances when the ball is in his hands. Bosh is third among remaining forwards in field goal percentage (51.6), only behind Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs and LeBron.

Bosh isn't just a hot shooter, he's also made himself dangerous from beyond the arc. He leads all forwards this postseason in three-point accuracy, making a remarkable 46.7 percent of his shots from downtown, according to CBSSports.com.

With Bosh being such a hot shooter lately, Hibbert has to make sure he keeps his eye on him during this series. He is going to be wandering out near the three-point line, far away from where Hibbert likes to be. The 7' 2" center isn't quick enough to get back and help on defense if one of the Heat slashers make a move toward the basket.

Bosh's ability to shoot drags the opposition's big man away from the paint, giving the Heat better scoring chances at the rim and more rebounding opportunities. If Hibbert does stay inside to help the defense, then the ball can be kicked to Bosh on the wing, leaving him wide open for a jump shot.

Chris Bosh may not have been able to play last year against the Pacers in the playoffs, but this time he comes back better than ever. Indiana has to account for Bosh on the wing, but that leaves the NBA's MVP room to charge the rim with authority. 

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