Heat seeking breakout game from Bosh to avoid Finals hole in Game 2
To avoid a bigger hole in Game 2, Miami needs Chris Bosh to bounce back to form
Heat coach Eric Spoelstra hinted Bosh could return to the Miami starting lineup
Bosh and the Heat know two straight losses to the Thunder won't be manageable
OKLAHOMA CITY -- A throng of reporters packed around Chris Bosh's podium on Wednesday, jostling for position as they waited for the All-Star power forward to arrive. For all of the attention paid to LeBron James (When you going to guard Kevin Durant, 'Bron?) and Dwyane Wade (How's your health, Dwyane?) the player Miami needs to bounce back in Game 2 the most is Bosh, who simply can't afford another subpar (10 points on 4-of-11 shooting) night.
Since stepping back into to the Miami lineup in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals last week, Bosh's role has steadily increased. Fourteen minutes in Game 5 doubled to 28 in Game 6, to 31 in Game 7, topping off with 34 on Tuesday. But Bosh has not been, well, Bosh since his return from an abdominal injury. He attempted more threes (eight) in the last four games than he did in the last month of the regular season. Whereas Miami involved Bosh in nearly 40 percent of its initial offense in the regular season, lately he has looked like a bystander, content to linger on the perimeter and wait for a kick-out pass.
Consider: Of the 11 attempts Bosh had in Game 1, eight were outside of 16-feet.
"I feel I could have given a lot more, and I'm going to fix that," Bosh said. "I made some mistakes that I shouldn't have made, and you know, that happens sometimes. I just have to be more aggressive and things will work out."
One of the ways to get Bosh going may be re-inserting him in the starting lineup. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra hinted that might be a possibility on Wednesday, while emphasizing that, yes, Bosh needed to play a larger role.
"Now he's got his feet wet," Spoelstra said. "The last two games he's been able to handle more minutes. I think we can start to incorporate him more to who he was and his strengths right before he got injured. He was so accommodating the last three or four games just trying to fit in. But we need him to be a little bit more who he is."
The pressure is on Bosh, and if he doesn't know it, he should. Miami escaped almost certain roster restructuring when they came back and beat the Celtics, with Bosh (19 points, eight rebounds in Game 7) providing a big boost. But that doesn't mean that the core of this group is safe. A Finals loss to the Thunder -- a team that Miami could see not one, not two, not three, not four more times in this situation -- could get Heat president Pat Riley thinking about ways to make the team better.
It won't be easy for Bosh to make an impact in this series. Serge Ibaka was the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year while Kendrick Perkins has a masters degree from the Kevin Garnett College of How To Get in Bosh's Head. This is a big, athletic and physical Thunder front line with the depth (Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed are there, too) to send waves of defenders Bosh's direction.
"I don't think Collison is the biggest player on the court, but he had an incredible impact on the game with his motor, his engine, his relentlessness," Spoelstra said. "That's who we feel we are, as well, and we didn't impose our will on the game, the energy and the possession-saving plays, the kind of plays that [they] made down the stretch."
Bosh will have to kick it into gear, quickly. The pressure will always be on James to win and the grace period Wade received for winning the title in 2006 has long since expired. But Bosh faces a different kind of scrutiny. He chose to come to Miami, but one more season on the wrong end of a Finals celebration could punch his ticket out of town. The Thunder are proof that you can win without an offensive-minded frontcourt, so long as you have scorers everywhere else. And if a top point guard suddenly becomes available, you can bet Bosh's name will be the first out of Riley's mouth.
Much is at stake in this series, with much to lose in defeat. Spoelstra often talks about Miami's resolve, and they will need now, more than ever. One loss to Oklahoma City is manageable. Two, against a Thunder team whose confidence grows by the day, is not.
"[Resolve] something that we have, but it's also something that you need in any championship situation," Bosh said. "We're going to have to have some resolve. We're used to winning, and this is the challenge of the Finals, losing a game sometimes. We know they're a good home team, they play well on their home floor, but we feel it's within our power to win and lose games."