By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
INDIANAPOLIS — Chris Bosh is the Miami Heat’s second most important player. Thus, when he has a bad game on both ends of the floor, the champs are going to struggle.
The Pacers have not been a great team over the last few months. But they survived the first two rounds and seem to bring their best against the Heat, in part because they match up well. The Pacers have the size to punish the champs inside. The key is to just get their bigs the ball in position to score.
That happened early and often in Game 1. Though the Heat outscored the Pacers 54-38 in the paint, Indiana attempted 22 more free throws. They scored 107 points on just 88 possessions, by far their best offensive performance of the postseason.
“Our defense was unacceptable,” Bosh said afterward. “They got everything that they wanted and we need to fix that.”
Miami suffered breakdowns all over the place. Bosh was certainly not the only guilty party. But as one of the Heat’s primary defenders on pick-and-rolls, it’s his job to set the tone defensively. When the Miami defense is at its best, Bosh’s activity is the biggest reason.
Not only was he a step slow in recovering to the Indiana bigs on Sunday, but they often outmuscled him in the paint. Bosh defended Roy Hibbert (5-for-13) in the post well enough, but his weak-side help on David West‘s rolls left something to be desired.
As a roll man, West usually has to try to beat the Heat from mid-range. In the regular season, 21 of his 47 shots against Miami were from outside the paint. But on Sunday, nine of his 11 shots came from inside the paint.
Bosh didn’t meet West far enough from the basket, giving the Pacers’ power forward too many quick and easy looks. West capped his afternoon by pump-faking Bosh out of his shorts and strolling by him for an easy dunk to put the Pacers up 16 with less than three minutes to go.
The defense was obviously the big problem for the Heat in Game 1. But Bosh came up empty on offense as well, shooting just 4-for-12 and missing all five of his 3-point attempts.
His ability to shoot from the outside can be its own matchup problem for the Pacers. Hibbert wants to defend the rim, not chase his man out to the 3-point line. But if Bosh’s jumper isn’t falling, Hibbert isn’t being punished for helping his teammates.
“I think, had Bosh had a bigger role,” Paul George said, “played a bigger game for them, this game would have been a lot more tougher than it already was.”
The Pacers are obviously a tough opponent for a finesse big man. All you have to do is look at Bosh’s numbers in his last nine games against Indiana (going back to Game 4 of last year’s conference finals): 9.1 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game, 34 percent shooting, and 7-for-26 from 3-point range.
He can maybe get away with that if the Miami defense is on point. But if the Indiana bigs are putting up much better numbers, the Heat are in trouble.
“Chris has a great way,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, “of figuring things out as the series goes on and what’s needed and what adjustments to make. And I anticipate he will.”