Chris Bosh caused the San Antonio Spurs so much trouble in Games 1 and 2 of the NBA Finals that head coach Gregg Popovich opted to make a lineup change in Game 3. If Bosh was going to beat them from the perimeter, Boris Diaw would be the man to track him down.
More mobile than usual starter Tiago Splitter, Diaw did just that for most of Tuesday night. To his credit, Bosh just didn't have the opportunities he saw in the previous two contests.
In Game 3, Chris Bosh had 30 touches and Rashard Lewis had 55. Huge reversal from Games 1-2. (per SportVU) pic.twitter.com/vUs5RRLCxO— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) June 11, 2014
He still wound up making all four of his field-goal attempts in Game 3, but the problem was that he only had four field-goal attempts.
That's not nearly enough to make the impact he's become accustomed to making.
Bosh scored a super-efficient 36 points combined in Games 1 and 2. He was 13-of-22 from the field. In Game 2, he even got to the charity stripe six times, converting on five of those attempts. In short, Miami's big man was aggressive and making the most of his looks from all over the floor.
Something changed in Game 3.
It wasn't all about Diaw, though he and San Antonio's team defense helped.
Boris Diaw on Bosh's touches: "We view him as an important part of their offense & that's why we give him so much respect."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) June 11, 2014
Part of the reversal simply had to do with defensive rotations. Rashard Lewis ended up with the better looks all night long and scored in double figures for the fifth straight time dating back to Game 5 against the Indiana Pacers.
Bosh scored fewer than 10 points for the first time since Game 3 of that series.
Overreacting isn't the solution. Forcing anything isn't either. The last thing the Miami Heat need is hero ball from their Big Three's third wheel.
With that said, Miami does need more than four field-goal attempts from Bosh. Much of that onus falls on the rest of the team. Bosh doesn't create many of his own shots, so others have to do their part.
Norris Cole on Chris Bosh: "We have to find him more."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) June 11, 2014
Outside of LeBron James himself, Bosh is Miami's most versatile scorer. He can score with his back to basket or facing up, he can hit jumpers from all over the floor, he can drive, cut and finish with plenty of authority.
The question going forward will be how and where he gets his touches.
If Diaw is assigned to covering Bosh on the perimeter, Miami may have to make some adjustments. That may mean getting the 30-year-old involved in more pick-and-roll scenarios. Bosh's ability to either roll to the basket or pop out for a jumper makes him especially dangerous in these situations.
It's also worth seeing what he can do in the post these days.
It's not a big part of Miami's game plan, but it would allow the club to simultaneously slow the tempo and pursue high-percentage shots. More importantly, it would put some pressure on the likes of Diaw and Tim Duncan to actually defend someone without picking up fouls.
One thing should be abundantly clear in this discussion: Bosh is capable.
He scored a combined 70 points in the final three games of the conference finals. He's been a beast all season long, averaging 16.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per contest. That he was less of a factor in Game 3 speaks as much to Miami's collective decision-making as it does to anything Bosh was or wasn't doing.
This isn't a question of how good he is, nor should there be any confusion about how dominant he can be.
It's precisely because Bosh has proven himself so many times that we can ask for more in Game 4.
More than four field-goal attempts. While he's at it, probably more than three rebounds, too.
As solid as Bosh has been in this series, he's been outplayed by the 38-year-old Tim Duncan. That's a bad sign for Miami. Even if James is the club's principal means of getting the ball inside, Bosh has to find his way to the paint somehow.
Spacing the floor is a virtue on the offensive end, but so are second-chance points. Bosh has just 15 rebounds in the series so far.
Rim protection is also a plus, but Bosh has just one block for the series.
Granted, Bosh's impact shouldn't be measured by one-dimensional metrics alone. Bosh explained to ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh that gone are the days of him worrying about averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per game.
"Efficiency and plus-minus," Bosh notes. "Everything else, I don't care."
Haberstroh expands on how Bosh is actually performing according to those measures:
It shows in the data. Bosh posted a career best in shot efficiency this season, registering a 55.5 percent effective field goal percentage, which incorporates the extra value of the 3-pointer. His true shooting percentage, which adds free throws into the mix, was also a career high this season, topping his previous best in Toronto in 2009-10. He has never been more efficient.
And his plus-minus? Consider this: The Heat outscored opponents by 9.8 points every 100 possessions when Bosh was on the floor. When he hit the bench, the scoreboard went the other way; the Heat were outscored by 0.4 points. That 10.2-point net differential was the largest of any Heat regular, according to NBA.com data.
So we shouldn't be freaking out about the career-low rebounding average. This is the new Chris Bosh, the floor-spacer, the perimeter shooter. This much has been well-documented.
The question is whether that formula remains a wise one in all instances, particularly in the instance of these NBA Finals.
If leaving Bosh to patrol the three-point arc effectively takes him out of Miami's offense, some changes are in order. He can't just be another one of Miami's shooters. He can't just be a highly paid version of Shane Battier.
He's too good for that. Too dynamic.
"They were bigs who could put the ball on the floor, they could shoot from the outside, they could kill you inside. As a player growing up in the traditional-big kind of system, that was like the best thing I had ever seen in my life," he said.
Those are the same qualities that now make Bosh one of a kind.
It would be a mistake for him to abandon his outside game entirely. One very important fourth-quarter shot in Game 2 is all the reminder we need.
But perhaps Bosh should rediscover what makes him such a well-rounded threat. Perhaps he should remember the things he's inherited from Duncan and Garnett.
There's a reason he's a legitimate star rather than a role player. He can play multiple roles and succeed in each of them. And he can certainly do so against the Spurs.
Bosh averaged 24 points against San Antonio in two games this regular season. If he raises his game to that level again in Game 4, Miami will be all but unbeatable.