Miami Heat Title Chase Will Go as Chris Bosh Does

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Miami Heat Title Chase Will Go as Chris Bosh Does
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There's no abdominal strain limiting him this postseason, yet Chris Bosh has found himself with lower averages and percentages than he was posting up last year.

In 18 games, already four more postseason games than he played last year, Bosh is averaging a well-below average 12 points on 46 percent shooting. He's grabbing less than seven boards per contest and is shooting 72 percent from the foul line, despite being an 80 percent career free-throw shooter.

While there is some encouragement in seeing his vastly improved perimeter game, where he's shooting 43 percent on nearly two three-point attempts per game, it's also indicative of Bosh not being utilized as a post-up option, nor as a driver who can take opposing big men off the dribble.

Those three-point attempts, however, are sink or swim for the Heat. It's the type of shot that nobody has a problem with when it's going in, but will make you pull your hair out by the roots, asking an unseen entity, "Why does he keep taking those shots?", when they don't fall.

The San Antonio Spurs have no quarrel with Bosh taking that shot. Nearing the end of Miami's Game 1 loss, the Spurs elected to have Tim Duncan leave Bosh on the perimeter in order to defend a drive by LeBron James.

James kicked it out to Bosh, with not one Spurs defender even bothering to give chase, and he missed it. He was 0-of-4 for the night from three-point range, with three of the misses being relatively wide-open.

Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter and the entire Spurs team will continue to allow Bosh to take three-pointers if it means he's not in his primary comfort zone of either taking long mid-range jumpers or left-handed hooks. They have not forgotten that he was a sub-30 percent shooter from long-range in the regular season.

And they're also well aware that Chris Bosh taking three-pointers means that their defense for that possession worked. If it goes in? So be it. It's not a consistent shot, even if he has hit nearly 50 percent of his three-pointers this postseason, and it's not Ray Allen or Mike Miller taking it.

Chris Bosh taking a three-pointer is just as much a successful defensive possession for San Antonio as it is when they force LeBron James into a three-point attempt.

Bosh and James combined to take nine three-pointers in Game 1. They combined to take three, all from LeBron, in Game 2.

In Miami's Game 2 win, Bosh attempted not a single three-pointer for the first time since a blowout Game 4 victory against the Chicago Bulls. The Heat are 3-3 in the postseason when Bosh takes at least three three-pointers, but they are 10-1 when he attempts two three-pointers or less.

His field-goal efficiency has dropped from nearly 55 percent in the regular season to less than 50 percent in the playoffs. He has taken 135 jumpers, while only attempting a combined 53 attempts on dunks, hooks, layups and tip-shots, according to Basketball-Reference.com.

Not only are his shots outside of the paint coming at a higher volume, but the astronomical percentages he was putting up in the regular season have dipped considerably.

After shooting 45 percent on jumpers and converting an astounding 53 percent of his shots in the range from 16 feet out to the perimeter, Bosh is shooting 42 percent on his jumpers and has only converted 38 percent of his shots in the range where he was at his deadliest throughout the long haul of the regular season.

And those low numbers are correlating with Heat losses. In playoff wins, Bosh is shooting 52 percent overall, 50 percent from beyond the arc and has a field-goal efficiency of 55 percent. In losses, however, his overall shooting percentage drops to a paltry 32 percent, his three-point percentage down to 33, and his field-goal efficiency declines to a grotesque 36 percent.

Not even Dwyane Wade, who sees his field-goal percentage dip from 47 percent to 39 percent in wins and losses in this year's postseason, has as significant an impact to losses than Bosh, whose shooting percentages appear to be direct responses to how well the Heat play that night.

It's even shown up in the first two games of the NBA Finals. In Miami's Game 1 loss, Bosh shot 6-of-16, good enough for a field-goal percentage of 38 percent. In Game 2, however, Bosh was 6-of-10, good enough for 60 percent, and Miami ended up winning by 19.

The Heat went 2-2 during Bosh's abominable final four games against the Indiana Pacers where he shot less than 43 percent in every game, including three games where he shot 23 percent or worse.

While Miami was able to get the job done in Game 2 with Bosh and Wade on the bench, there is an obvious difference in the Heat offense when Bosh is making his jumpers and when he isn't. There is a large sense of relief for the offense when they can rely on their All-Star center to drain the long mid-range jumpers he had been making with unbelievable consistency throughout the first season.

When he isn't? Bosh's confidence dips along with his shooting percentage and he disappears, even more so than he already does in Miami's LeBron-centric offense. In those final four games against Indiana, he shot less than 10 attempts on three occasions, resulting in one of the darkest stretches of Bosh's illustrious career.

Chris Bosh won't carry the Heat like LeBron James can. There's just too much that LeBron can, and has, to do in order for the Heat to win games. He'll end up carrying the load no matter what—the obligation and responsibility that comes with being the best at your job—but it's also on Bosh to provide the extra lift James needs to enable a victory.

Miami had the right strategy in Game 3 going to Bosh. They got him looks early, but he responded by starting out 1-of-5 and finishing the game 4-of-10, only scoring 12 points. He did grab 10 rebounds, but played a minimal role on the defensive rebounds overall, aiding in allowing the Spurs to grab a mind-numbing 19 offensive rebounds.

Bosh had 12 and 10 the previous game, as well. His stat line indicates his role in Heat wins is minimal, but it's not helping Miami when they're giving him only 10 field-goal attempts, while Miami's perimeter players struggle mightily with their shots and facilitating.

San Antonio is going to keep allowing Miami to shoot over the top of them if they want to win. The Heat have bought into it thus far, only taking 10 free throws the past game and attempting 18 three-pointers, and they have yet to give any indication of an adjustment because the shots they are taking are not bad shots.

Many of the shots the Heat are missing, including Bosh, are open jumpers. San Antonio is giving the likes of Wade and James the "Rajon Rondo treatment," basically giving five feet of space and going under screens, and those two are responding by shooting how Rondo used to shoot before he grew tired of missing open jumpers and worked on it.

The only capable and consistent shooters on this team are Mike Miller, Ray Allen and Chris Bosh.

Miami has done a fair job at getting Miller, 5-of-5 from three in Game 3, involved and performed another fair job at getting Allen involved in Games 1 and 2, but Bosh has yet to get involved longer than what we witnessed in the first quarter tonight.

If James and Wade are going to continue missing open jumper after open jumper, allow the game's top mid-range shooter from the regular season to take those shots, instead. Even the best shooters go through slumps, but the only way to beat that is by continuing to take the same shots.

"But why would you have him miss more?" Has anybody else got the job done? 47 percent of Miami's shots in Game 3 came from the mid-range, with a majority of those looks coming from LeBron and Dwyane, who have been mired in shooting slumps over the first three games of the finals.

Bosh is the only player who can consistently drain that mid-range jumper with ease, and he receives those spot-up opportunities off of the drives of LeBron and Wade. If those two are taking mid-range jumpers, however, then Bosh is going to continue having to watch and wait until it's his turn.

Or, and this is a stretch, Miami attempts to integrate him back into the post.

Let's not forget that Bosh averaged 24 points per game the year before he joined the Heat, and it wasn't all just because he was getting set up by the likes of Jose Calderon. He was still a power forward. Not just a converted 2-guard who spends his time along the perimeter.

Miami has to maximize their potential out of Bosh. Understood that Miami went 66-16, won 27 consecutive games and is three wins away from a second consecutive NBA championship, but the main contributors of this Heat team are not getting the job done as they have in the past.

Bosh is currently taking the same amount of field-goal attempts per game as he did in last year's finals run. Then again, LeBron James was also averaging 28 points in the finals and Dwyane Wade wasn't playing his game of "How many low-percentage shots should I attempt that I have no right taking."

Those two were a combined 3-of-22 from outside the paint in Game 3. Is this idea of getting Bosh more involved warming up on you at all?

Miami can continue riding out the storm and hope that LeBron and Wade are going to eventually take advantage of the open looks they have been receiving throughout the series. However, if the coaching staff wants to react fast, Bosh gets at least 15 attempts and Miami makes a conscious effort to keep him involved throughout the game.

Because the Heat didn't sign Bosh to a deal that's paying him $17 million this season to average below 15 points in an NBA Finals.

There has to be more to his game than waiting to get the ball on a kick-out. He needs to be involved. Whether it's through pick-and-rolls, where he ranked 24th in the league in points per possession and shot 57 percent, per SynergySports, or cuts to the basket, where he ranked 12th in the league in PPP and shot 72 percent, there has to be more to his game than the guy who gets the ball on kick-outs.

San Antonio ranked 11th in the league in defending the pick-and-roll, per Synergy.

What's the worst that can come out of it? LeBron, with the exception of that 35-5 eight-minute run in Game 2, and Dwyane are struggling significantly to get anything going in the Heat offense and there hasn't been much of a consistent, high-percentage output from a role player other than Mike Miller.

It's been a foreign concept for years with this team. But they're in foreign territory right now. Staring down the barrel of a 3-1 gun, watching as two role players combine to shoot 20-of-27 from beyond the arc in the past two games, watching their two perimeter stars not attacking and not hitting mid-range jumpers, and suffering the worst loss in postseason Heat history.

This isn't a knee-jerk reaction. This is three games adding up. San Antonio has been getting good looks all series from the perimeter and they're beginning to make them, LeBron has yet to eclipse 20 points and is being called out by Danny Green, and the best offensive outputs this series have come from Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller.

Miami's offense is at its best when Bosh is on the floor, a 3.8 positive difference according to 82games.com in terms of points per 100 possessions. If they wait too long to begin involving him, Bosh's potential as a mid-range shooter and driving threat will have been failed to be properly utilized for another season.

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