MIAMI — The most destructive and imposing force in these NBA playoffs made itself known once again, and the question must be asked: Can anyone beat it?
The injury virus, we mean.
Infecting and affecting basketball and making life hell for several contenders, the virus paid an unwelcome visit Sunday to the Heat and perhaps rendered Chris Bosh weaker, or worse, out of the East semifinal series with Indiana. A lower abdominal strain wasn’t enough to completely ruin the afternoon for the Heat, who pushed aside the Pacers in Game 1. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade took over in the fourth quarter (outscoring Pacers 42-38 in the second half by themselves) while the star-challenged Pacers shot 6-for-19 in the period and Danny Granger, their best player, vaporized (1-for-10 shooing).
But you knew that could happen. Meanwhile, what happens from here? And how might it change the tenor of a matchup where Indiana had a clear size advantage even before the injury?
“We don’t know about Chris,” said coach Erik Spoelstra. “We won’t know anything until the MRI.”
Miami doesn’t know the severity. An ab strain is a tricky injury. The best healing option is rest because of the chances of re-injury. Bosh felt a jolt of pain when he drove hard for a dunk and then landed funny in the second quarter. He stayed in the game, shot a free throw, when had to be helped off the floor seconds later after reaching for a rebound.
Bosh was the best player on the floor for Miami at the time, with 13 points and five rebounds in the half. And given his size, and the Heat’s overall lack of size, his importance in this particular series was and is larger than usual.
And so one more player was added to a playoff hit list that includes Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Iman Shumpert, Baron Davis, Amar’e Stoudemire (self-inflicted version) and Joakim Noah. And Dwight Howard was injured and counted out just weeks before the playoffs.
The injury virus didn’t hit James or Wade, and because of that, Miami was able to grab Game 1. Whether that’s enough to win three more games without Bosh, if that’s the case, will be more of a challenge. Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf were gritty replacements in Game 1, combining for 13 points and 10 rebounds, but how does that translate over a seven-game series?
If a major injury happens to cripple the NBA’s glamour team, this postseason will be remembered for who wasn’t playing rather than for what is was.