Miami Heat Need a Chris Bosh Gut-Check to Beat Indiana Pacers

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2014

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Don't even think about blaming the Miami Heat entirely for their Game 1, 107-96 loss to the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Those Pacers had a lot to do with it, too.

And so did Chris Bosh

The third wheel of Miami's Big Three looked more like a flat tire on Sunday afternoon, scoring just nine points on 4-of-12 shooting. He was 0-of-5 from beyond the three-point arc, robbing the Heat of a deadly long-range threat that might have otherwise kept Indiana's defense honest.

This isn't terribly new for Bosh, at least when it comes to facing the Pacers. In four games against Indiana this season, Bosh averaged just 11.3 points. 

It's a trend that needs to come to an end soon if the Heat are to prevail in this series. As good of a two-man show as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are, it will take a team effort to beat Indiana—with Bosh leading the way for the supporting cast.

Ordinarily, Bosh averaged 16.2 points and 6.6 rebounds this season. If anything, you'd like to see those numbers actually jump against the Pacers, given Miami's shortened rotation and the fact that, you know, these games actually matter.

Instead, Miami's power forward is off to a rough start—and his team along with him.

After losing Game 3 to the Brooklyn Nets in the conference semifinals, Bosh sounded optimistic, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel's Ira Winderman:"We've been here before. And it's good for us. I'm a glass-is-half-full kind of guy. I think the loss was good for us. It just shows us that we can't come in being complacent. We have to really, really dictate the issue as far as the intensity is concerned."

It sounds like Bosh feels much the same after dropping Game 1 against the Pacers.

After that Nets game, it was head coach Erik Spoelstra who said, "We're not into reality checks or human condition or anything like that."

It's hard to think of a better term for what Bosh needs: a reality check.

Yes, he needs to space the floor. Yes, he has to take the occasional three-pointer. But he's not Ray Allen, even if small sample sizes seem to indicate otherwise. Through his first nine games of the postseason, Bosh was converting on a stunning 48.6 percent of his 3.9 three-point attempts per game.

It's easy for him to fall in love with those shots. After all, following that Game 3 loss against Brooklyn, it was Bosh's bomb from downtown that helped propel Miami to a Game 4 win (per the Miami Herald's Joseph Goodman): "Bosh’s corner three-pointer, the result of muscle memory folded into every fiber of his 6-10 frame, gave the Heat a 97-94 lead and eventually overwhelming control in the best-of-7 series."

It's also a tempting shot because it's open so much of the time. As Goodman points out, " 'getting open' is the reason Bosh made the decision a few years back to develop his three-point shot. When he steps outside, more often than not, Bosh is wide open."

Interior defenders are reluctant to vacate the paint and put a hand in Bosh's face. Doing so would leave said paint more vulnerable to attack from James and Wade. No matter how many threes Bosh actually makes, teams would rather leave him open than alternatives like Allen or Shane Battier. When picking perimeter poisons, Bosh has been the flavor of the month.

Temptations aside, Bosh has to diversify his game against the Pacers. When the three isn't falling, he still has to contribute. That means taking the ball inside and getting to the free-throw line. Bosh was just 1-of-2 from that line on Sunday, a number that says more about his lack of aggressiveness than anything else.

There's always a legitimate philosophy holding that a team like Miami should take what the Pacers defense gives them. That philosophy is especially compelling against good defensive teams, and the Pacers are most certainly that. The logic is that, because open shots won't come around very often, you have to exploit them when they do.

Bosh's Game 1 may not be a definitive counter-argument, but it's an important caveat at the very least.

As a team, Miami attempted just 15 free throws. Indiana took 37 of them, led by Roy Hibbert's 9-of-13 performance from the charity stripe.

In the battle of bigs, it was Hibbert taking it to Bosh and reserve Chris Andersen, both of whom finished with four personal fouls apiece. Bosh will need to flip the script, putting more pressure on Hibbert and potentially putting him in foul trouble. With James and Wade penetrating to the basket, that should be pretty achievable in theory.

As it was, Hibbert finished with just three fouls and played 39 minutes.

It's far too soon for the Heat to go into any kind of panic mode.'s Matt Moore notes that, "This all adds up to a Game 1 loss that isn't the end of the world for Miami. The Heat are 16-2 after losing Game 1 in the Triad era."

But it's never too soon for some serious self-reflection. Moore also points out that Miami, "did waste a 27-point, 12-of-18 performance from Dwyane Wade."

That effort largely went wasted because Bosh went missing in action.

The Heat may not have the margin of error that they used to have. They have to fire on all cylinders, and that means Bosh showing up—rebounding, defending (the pick-and-roll especially) and taking good shots.

The blame doesn't fall entirely on Bosh. It's a team game, and Miami's team defense wasn't up to the task in Game 1. After the game, Spoelstra told reporters: "That's probably us at our worst defensively, and you have to give them credit. They played well, and we could never get into a rhythm where we could defend without fouling."

He continued, "Our overall disposition needs to be much tougher, much stronger."

The notion that this was a collective failure certainly doesn't obviate Bosh of fault, but it does put it in perspective. Even if Bosh makes a couple of his three-point attempts, the Heat probably would have still lost this game. The more pressing need is for Bosh and Co. to make themselves felt on the defensive end.

Had that been the case, there would have been less pressure on the Heat to make every shot. They ended up making over 51 percent of their field-goal attempts, and it still wasn't enough. That's a sign that something beyond Bosh was broken, that something was lacking in Miami's defensive intensity.

In turn, all five Pacers starters scored in double figures. Even C.J. Watson had 11 points. Hibbert and George Hill were the only starters to shoot under 50 percent. Hibbert made up for it at the line, and Hill made amends by cashing in on his first three buckets—all of them three-pointers.

Getting more out of Bosh is a necessary but insufficient condition for Miami to again advance to the NBA Finals. It has to happen, but it's not the only thing that has to happen.

The Heat were beat on both ends of the floor Sunday afternoon. Bosh is just the easiest culprit to single out.


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