Why Chris Bosh's Developing 3-Point Shot Is Key for Miami Heat

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Why Chris Bosh's Developing 3-Point Shot Is Key for Miami Heat
Don Ryan/Associated Press

It wasn't long ago that a Miami Heat possession ending in a Chris Bosh three-pointer was a failure.

Go back to Game 1 of the 2013 NBA Finals, where the San Antonio Spurs intentionally left Bosh open from beyond the arc to manipulate him into letting it fly, a strategy Bosh would pick up on after the game. He hoisted up four three's in the contest, missing them all, including one late in a crucial time of the close game.

The three-point shot used to be Bosh's Achilles' heel, something he couldn't resist (he shot one per game last season) but was oh-so bad for him (he made just 28.4 percent of them).

But things change. Nine months removed from that loss to the Spurs, a Bosh three is no longer a bad thing for Miami. In fact, it's become a big plus for the Heat.

Through 59 games, Bosh is shooting 37.1 percent on 2.2 three-point attempts per game.

NBA.com

But the value of that shot extends further than the 147 points Bosh's 49 made threes have given the Heat this season.

A big chunk of Bosh's worth to Miami stems from his ability to space the floor. The Heat committed to small ball during the 2012 postseason in a desire to surround LeBron James and Dwyane Wade with as many shooters as possible.

Bosh was key to this system, as he could play the 5 and possessed a deadly mid-range game. The threat of Bosh's jumper could force opposing centers out of the paint and beyond the free-throw line, opening up driving lanes for James and Wade. If the defense collapsed on the Heat's slashers, then Bosh was open and ready to knock down the jumper. He shot an absurd 53.0 percent on shots from 16 to 23 feet away from the basket, according to Hoop Data

By adding an effective three-point shot to his arsenal this season, Bosh is even more dangerous and is able to draw out opponents even further. That's extremely valuable. LeBron (79.6 percent) and Wade (68.3 percent) are both among the best in the NBA in field-goal percentage within five feet of the basket, and there's no denying Bosh's spacing ability is one of the reasons why. 

If opponents happen to be slow in respecting the newly effective three-point jumper, Bosh will make them pay. Teams can't use the strategy that San Antonio employed last postseason.

In the Heat's Feb. 23 win over the Chicago Bulls, Bosh knocked down four of his nine three-point attempts. He had the following to say after the game, via Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald:

I thought I was going to shoot at least four, but they kept giving me open looks, and after I kind of got a rhythm for it, after the first half, I was like, ‘All right, I pretty much got to let it go because they were really packing that paint, they were very far back and I have to draw them out.'

Bosh's long-range jumper has also led the Heat to use bigger lineups at times. Miami has played Chris "Birdman" Andersen and Bosh together for 243 minutes this season, something they didn't do last season. 

Going to a lineup with two true bigs has obviously helped Miami from a defensive standpoint, but due to Bosh's versatility, the Heat are also thriving on the offensive end with this pair.

ESPN's Tom Haberstroh (subscription required) writes:

Bosh is thriving more at the 4, and, this time around, the spacing hasn't been compromised. Even though Andersen doesn't stretch the floor (third quarter of Monday's game notwithstanding), the Heat aren't sacrificing anything on the offensive end, registering a 109.3 offensive rating that would rank best in the league. While Bosh has spaced the floor out to the perimeter, Andersen has extended the Heat's offense in the vertical dimension, flying in for weakside dunks and soaring putbacks.

Coach Erik Spoelstra has before called Bosh Miami's most important player. It's an easy thing to scoff at, but Bosh has a tremendous effect on the Heat's offense.

The unit is built on impeccable floor spacing, and he is at the center of it. Floor spacing doesn't show up on his stat sheet. However, the Heat having the most efficient offense in the league (112.5 points per 100 possessions) is the ultimate reflection of Bosh's improved game. 

Bosh's three-point shooting might have hindered in the 2013 finals, but it could be the very thing that puts them over the top again in 2014. 

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