The Miami Herald

Miami Heat’s LeBron James and Dwyane Wade thriving in Chris Bosh’s absence

The way the Heat’s offense is humming along in these playoffs, perhaps Chris Bosh should take his time returning from injury.

Since Miami’s initial two losses to Indiana without Bosh, the team’s offense has exploded thanks to a combined effort by Dwyane Wade and LeBron James to get close to the rim.

Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics is at 8: 30 p.m. Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

In Monday’s Game 1 victory, the Heat shot 50 percent from the field despite going 5 of 25 from behind the three-point arc. Led by James and Wade, the Heat was 21 of 27 (77.8 percent) inside the paint.

“There’s no way any team should get that many layups, that many point-blank shots against our defense,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said less “hero ball” and not less Bosh has resulted in the offensive uptick. Whatever the reason, the Heat’s ball movement in its half-court offense has improved since Bosh was sidelined with an abdominal strain.

“It’s not something that happens overnight,” Spoelstra said. “This is two years of habits and learning each other’s strengths and learning what’s effective for us. We’ve had to change a lot of habits that guys have had for years for the improvement of our team.”

The Heat’s outside shooters were arctic-winter cold in Game 1 and Miami’s transition game was credited with just 10 points. Normally, those combinations of statistics would spell certain doom for the Heat. Yet the Heat won by 14 points. What gives?

The Heat’s half-court offense has improved dramatically during the course of the playoffs. With Bosh out, the interplay between Wade and James has increased by necessity.

“When Bosh went out, the package got smaller and when [Spoelstra] calls sets, he only calls them for me and LeBron instead of calling it for all three of us,” Wade said. “So, I’m more involved in the offense, and our team can kind of know exactly what we’re going to get out of us two.”

During the Heat’s four-game postseason winning streak, Wade and James have combined for 251 points. That’s an average of more than 62 points per game for the dynamic duo.

“We have to execute a lot better,” Wade said. “We don’t have another guy that we can throw the ball down to and say ‘OK, get us a bucket.’ ”

Without Bosh, Wade and James have thrived in the Heat’s pick-and-roll sets while also turning to their post-up games more frequently. As a result, the Heat is averaging 103.5 points per game in its past four victories.

“We have to get better looks because we have one less guy that can get us 20 points a game,” Wade said. “So we have to find another way to get better shots for us to be able to score.

“So, I think we have been doing a better job, since Chris has been out, of trying to execute a lot better, trying to get even better looks, because we don’t have the luxury of having his 20 points.”

To a degree, the loss of Bosh has simplified the Heat’s offense while also allowing Wade to be more involved with off-the-ball cuts to the basket.

“It became more of a comfort for us to get back into what we’re used to, in a sense,” Wade said. “Now, at no point am I saying we wouldn’t want Chris back now. We would love him back right now healthy. But we’ve made the adjustment we need to make with him out.”

ETC.

Bosh will not be available for Game 2 on Wednesday, but Spoelstra indicated after Tuesday’s practice that the All-Star continues to make significant progress in rehab sessions.

“Considering where he was and how we all felt when he was walking off the court, this is incredible progress,” Spoelstra said. “I’m not getting ahead of ourselves, but it’s nice to have him around.”

Wednesday: Celtics at Heat

When/where: 8:30 p.m., AmericanAirlines Arena.

TV/radio: ESPN; WAXY 790, WQBA 1140 (Spanish).

Series: Heat leads 1-0.

Scouting report: Immediately after Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Celtics vowed to be more physical with the Heat during the rest of the series. Boston backed away from that tone slightly Tuesday, but the Heat is expecting a significant pushback from its veteran opponent Wednesday. … The Heat dominated the hustle statistics in Game 1, outrebounding the Celtics by 15 and recording 11 blocks compared with just one for Boston. … After experimenting with his rotation immediately after Bosh’s injury, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has settled on a consistent starting lineup. Shane Battier is expected to start at power forward again, with Ronny Turiaf starting at the center position. … The Heat was 5 of 25 from three-point range in Game 1, including 1 of 11 on corner three-point attempts. Those numbers figure to improve in Game 2.





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