Chris Bosh's Struggles Against the Pacers: Can Miami Win Without Him?
After Game 6 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers, Chris Bosh apologized to his teammates for his poor performance in the series. If the All-Star Miami Heat center continues his bleak streak from Games 1 and 2, he may have to dig up that apology again.
We expected a rebound from the Heat after their uninspiring showing Sunday, particularly on defense. What we were less sure of was how Chris Bosh would respond to his lackluster performance. In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Bosh scored a pitiful nine points on 4 for 12 shooting, and a cringe-worthy 0 for 5 beyond the arc. His team was outscored by 16 points while he was on the floor, a distressing stat coming from one of the Big Three. His complete inability to defend the pick-and-roll contributed to his absence on defense, grabbing two rebounds and allowing his opponents Roy Hibbert and David West to score 19 each.
Last night's Game 2 win showed a stagnant Bosh, who was held to nine points once again and 1 for 4 from the three-point line, while his team was outscored by four points in his 34 minutes of play. Bosh's sole negative plus-minus in the Conference Semifinals against the Brooklyn Nets was in Game 3, the only other Heat loss in this year’s playoffs. While the Heat pulled out a win last night, can they steal the series without a well-performing (or decent-performing) Chris Bosh?
Bosh’s numbers in Games 1 and 2 shouldn't have come as much of a surprise given his past performances against Indiana. In the four regular season games against the Pacers this year, Bosh only averaged 11.3 points on 42.9% shooting, in comparison to his season average of 16.2 points on 51.6% shooting. The biggest drop is seen in his three-point percentage, which was evident from his 1 for 9 shooting in the series thus far. Bosh shot an average of 33.9% from behind the three-point line this season, but in the four games against the Pacers, he shot just 21.4%.
Chris Bosh struggles against the Pacers. It is what it is. Perhaps you're thinking that the six games this year were all flukes and that maybe, just maybe, Bosh happened to be off his game each time he has played Indiana this year. That could hold true if he didn't struggle against the Pacers in last year's Eastern Conference Finals as well. He averaged just 11 points and 4 rebounds in the series (and averaged 8 rebounds in all other playoff series). He shot just 37.7% in the series, as opposed to shooting nearly (or above) 50% in the three other playoff series of 2013.
To Bosh's credit, seven-footer and All-Star defender Roy Hibbert is no joke in the paint. What's concerning, though, is that Bosh's inability to shoot his reliable three has limited the Heat's plan to stretch the Pacer's defense. Indiana is giving open three-pointers to Bosh, as Hibbert has opted to protect the paint rather than closing out, but Bosh hasn't been able to convert. At the 4:19 mark of the third quarter last night, instead of tying the game at 57, Bosh bricked an open three-pointer so badly that it luckily landed in Udonis Haslem's hands for an easy layup.
As Mark Jackson pointed out while commentating Game 2, Bosh looks lost and, more importantly, isn't playing assertively. The Heat are a dangerous team because the Big Three can be lethal on all areas of the floor. Bosh's shooting sets him apart from other frontcourt players. Dirk Nowitzki is the only other big man to be as consistent beyond the arc as Chris Bosh. Bosh's shot chart is comparable to a guard's.
Even if his shot isn't working for him, Bosh can still up his aggressive play in the paint to force Hibbert and West in foul trouble and open up more perimeter play for his other teammates. Bosh shot two free throws in Game 1 and zero in Game 2 - a perfect illustration of his lack of assertiveness. In addition, Bosh's catch-and-shoot field goal efficiency, which measures any jump shot taken where the player possessed the ball for less than two seconds with no dribbles, is 60.9%. He is fourth in the league in catch-and-shoot efficiency. Imagine how difficult it is to defend Bosh when he is knocking down jumpers. It's at least one of the reasons Erik Spoelstra dubs him the most important player on the Miami Heat.
Miami doesn't need Chris Bosh's apologies. They need his impeccable (or decent) play. The Heat are undoubtedly a good team without Bosh, but they are a great team - almost impenetrable team - when he's playing well.