By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
VIDEO: Postgame: Chris Bosh
MIAMI — Some shots have more value than others.
Chris Bosh made three jumpers — one 2-pointer and a pair of 3s — in the first two minutes of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals on Monday, and they were worth a lot more than eight points on the scoreboard. Bosh’s start was just what the Heat needed to play their best game in their most important game of the postseason to date, a comfortable 102-90 victory that gave them a 3-1 series lead and put them one win away from their fourth straight trip to The Finals.
The Heat were 10-2 in the playoffs before Monday, but their last five wins were mostly about fourth-quarter execution. Over their last seven games, they trailed by an average of three points after three quarters.
Both the Pacers and Heat spoke before Game 4 about trying to play a complete game. Miami needed a better start. Indiana needed a better finish.
The Heat were the ones that got what they needed. They jumped out to an 8-0 start, led by as many as 10 in the first quarter, and never trailed.
“Chris Bosh,” LeBron James said afterward. “We got off to that fast start because Chris Bosh came out and got it going early.”
We’ve seen that, at times, Roy Hibbert‘s rim protection can be James’ Kryptonite. But Bosh’s perimeter shooting can be the Kryptonite for Hibbert’s rim protection. And his first few shots of the game can set the tone for how Hibbert defends him.
Before Monday, Bosh was 0-for-10 in the playoffs (0-for-4 in the conference finals) on shots in the first three minutes of the first quarter. And throughout this series, he hasn’t really made Hibbert pay for staying near the basket.
Bosh’s coach and teammates know how important his shooting can be to their offense. They were up 2-1, but knew they could get better if Bosh got out of an extended offensive funk against Hibbert and the Pacers. So they made it a point to get him good looks at the basket early.
“That was the game plan for us,” James said. “We’ve been talking about it the last couple of days, how are we going to get CB going?”
The first possession of the game was designed for Bosh. After setting a back-screen for James, he flared to the right wing, isolated on Hibbert, and drained a 17-foot jumper.
Two possessions later, Mario Chalmers found him open in the corner in transition. Hibbert failed to close out, Bosh sunk the trey, and was already talking to the crowd on his way down the floor.
“The one cool thing about it,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, “was his teammates were real aggressive to try to get him going. That’s nice to see, when your brothers are wanting you to be aggressive and look for opportunities. You could see it.”
On the following possession, James dribbled off a screen from Bosh, drew Hibbert’s attention, and found Bosh beyond the arc again. Three shots, three swishes, and now Bosh was really barking on his way back on defense.
Bosh said afterward that he was feeling “a little bit greedy.”
“I just wanted to keep it going,” he said. “If you see one go in, you want two, and then you want three.”
From that point, the Heat offense was rolling downhill and the Pacers defense couldn’t stop it. Miami went the entire first quarter without going scoreless on two straight possessions. It was the first time in the series that they won the first period.
“When CB hits shots like that,” Chalmers said, “it makes things easier for everybody else, because we know we can always throw it back to him and the defense knows they have to worry about him. So it opens up the paint more.”
The paint was open for James, who scored 22 of his game-high 32 points in the restricted area (18) or at the free-throw line (four). As a team, the Heat shot 19-for-25 in the paint. They shot poorly (13-for-44) from outside the paint, but Bosh had six of those 13 baskets.
After averaging just 9.1 points on 35 percent shooting in his last 11 games against the Pacers, Bosh finished with 25 on 7-for-12, his highest point total against Indiana in 26 games since he came to Miami.
“I think the start is what did it for me,” Bosh said. “That gave my teammates confidence to hit me when I’m open.”
“Even though we ran maybe a couple of actions,” Spoelstra added, “the rest of it was those four other guys trying to create an action for him to get some air space. But he was engaged and active on both ends of the court, and he can impact it.”
The Heat finished with 102 points on just 81 possessions (126 per 100) against the No. 1 defense in the league, their best offensive game since Game 1 of the conference semifinals against Brooklyn.
They’re starting to bring more consistent energy on defense too. They’re peaking at the right time and could be well rested for The Finals if they can win Game 5 in Indiana on Wednesday.
If Bosh makes his first few shots again, start making those reservations.