We're pretty sure he's earned it.
However, the biggest bellwether for the team's success—statistically speaking—might be Chris Bosh.
The Miami forward was magnificent once again Sunday afternoon, tallying 24 points and five rebounds in Miami's decisive 113-101 home win over the San Antonio Spurs—the two teams' first meeting since their epic seven-game Finals series last June.
The performance was a red-letter one for Bosh, according to ESPN Stats and Information:
Over his last seven games, Bosh is averaging 24 points and 6.3 rebounds on 61 percent shooting from the floor, including 46 percent from three-point range.
But while Bosh’s prolific scoring has been a boon to Miami in recent games—particularly in light of Dwyane Wade's absence—it's been Bosh's efficiency that's proven the most timely indicator for Miami.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, the Heat are 23-6 when Bosh hits more than 50 percent from the field—regardless of whether he's shooting 20 times or 10 times (something he's failed to do 11 times in those 32 wins).
Contrastingly, Bosh has met the 50 percent threshold in just six of the team's 12 losses, having attempted 10 or less shots in 10 of them.
The point: When Chris Bosh is shooting efficiently, the Heat are tough to beat.
Indeed, a quick look at Bosh's shooting-specific statistics yields a picture of a player that has mastered Miami's spacing-heavy system:
|The Mighty Bosh|
At the same time, Bosh's regular-season prowess—which has always been marked by equal parts flash and steady—masks a playoff resume that, while occasionally brilliant, has too often trended towards the middling.
Consider: Over his last three postseasons, Bosh has yet to register an overall field-goal percentage of above 50 percent (46 percent in 2013, 49 percent in 2012 and 47 percent in 2011, per ESPN.com).
When LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are at your flanks, that kind of mediocrity can easily be forgotten.
But with Miami and the Indiana Pacers seemingly on a conference-finals collision course, the Heat will need every offensive contribution they can get if they hope to usurp and upset the league’s hottest, most defensively devastating team.
Bosh is key to this equation.
Of Miami's four five-man lineups that have logged a minimum of 50 minutes, all of them feature Bosh at center.
That Bosh is Miami's de-facto center isn't exactly breaking news, but the implications—vis-a-vis the Pacers in particular—are profound.
With a floor-spacer of Bosh's caliber, Miami can better neutralize Indiana's notorious defense by drawing center Roy Hibbert—front-runner for this year's Defensive Player of the Year Award—out of the paint, where he's at his most effective.
Josh Martin, in a piece posted this past October, corroborates in numbers what the eyes had long suggested:
The numbers bear out just how effective Bosh was in this role. According to Basketball Value, every lineup wherein Bosh played the "5" alongside LeBron and Wade in the 2012 playoffs yielded strong one-year adjusted and unadjusted plus-minus numbers. Likewise, four of Miami's most frequently used (and most effective) five-man units from its postseason run featured LeBron at power forward and/or Chris Bosh at center.
It worked once and it could work again—but only if Bosh can effectively parlay his scintillating regular-season stats into steadfast playoff consistency.
If he can do that, and if LeBron and Wade bring their own brilliance back to the table, the Heat could have the makings for a three-peat.
All stats current as of January 26, 2014 and courtesy of NBA.com, unless otherwise noted.
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