INDIANAPOLIS -- He is going to be open. That much is certain. It’s just a matter of whether the Heat’s atypical center hits his shots.
So far, he hasn’t missed many.
Chris Bosh is shooting 48.6 percent from three-point range through the first two rounds of the playoffs. That’s better than any other shooter still playing basketball in the third week of May, including the Heat’s James Jones (47.8 percent) and Marco Belinelli (47.6 percent) of the San Antonio Spurs. From the corner, where Bosh delivered his hero shot in the final minute of Game 4 against the Brooklyn Nets, Bosh is 8 of 11 in the postseason.
If he continues at that clip in the Eastern Conference finals, Bosh will give the Heat a significant edge against the Indiana Pacers, who survived preliminary playoff series against the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks and fifth-seeded Washington Wizards. Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals is at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and the Pacers advanced to this point with their defense, which is allowing opponents 91.4 points per game. The Heat’s offense has been churning through the playoffs at a clip of 99.6 points per game.
“He’s going to have opportunities and he can have a big series for us just being confident and shooting the ball,” Dwyane Wade said of Bosh. “And we’re going to find him, especially if we’re driving and that big guy is coming to put a shadow on the rim. Chris has got to let it go, and, oh, he will be.”
The “big guy” Wade said looms over the rim like a shadow is of course Pacers center Roy Hibbert. In past series and regular-season games against the Heat, the Pacers’ 7-2 paint protector has significantly helped neutralize the Heat’s main offensive threat, rim attacks by future Hall of Famers Wade and LeBron James.
In Hibbert, the NBA’s “rule of verticality” — which allows a defender in the restricted area to meet offensive players in the air if the defender jumps straight up — has been the Pacers’ greatest defensive advantage. For the Heat, the counter to that has been an obvious one: attempt to pull Hibbert outside the paint with midrange and three-point shots by Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier.
That makes Bosh and his relatively new skill as a three-point shooter invaluable in this series, according to Wade.
“Obviously on our side it helps when Chris is at the five, being able to spread the floor confidently, like he is now, and being able to hit the threes,” Wade said. “He’s shooting a higher percentage than probably Ray Allen right now, so it helps us offensively where we know we might have a little more space and when we put a lineup in, knowing that Hibbert might have to guard on the perimeter.
“And it’s just that count of a second late for him to get to the rim if you’re driving, and it’s a decision that he has to make. So, what Chris has added to his game has helped us tremendously.”
The evolution of Bosh’s game over the past three seasons has been one of the more unappreciated cornerstones of the Heat’s back-to-back championship runs, and especially its current 8-1 record through two rounds of the 2014 playoffs. The Heat is in the Eastern Conference finals for the fourth consecutive year, and Bosh’s ability to adapt to the Heat’s varying needs through the years has been every bit as important as the addition of Shane Battier in the 2012 offseason and the plundering of Allen from the Boston Celtics.
Through many frustrating nights, Bosh has developed the ability to move seamlessly between positions in the frontcourt, and he also has mastered the Heat’s defense and can now anchor the unit from the paint. Offensively, he has developed into a multidimensional player unique in the NBA. Dallas Mavericks 7-footer Dirk Nowitzki is the closest comparison at this point.
It has happened through “tireless” work before and after practice, Bosh said. Asked Friday how many three-pointers he attempts on any given off day, Bosh said “millions.”
Now it’s just up to Bosh’s teammates to find him. He’s usually unguarded and in the corner.
“They know,” Bosh said, referring to James’ and Wade’s court awareness.
And if they somehow forget that Bosh is, more often than not, wide open, he will remind them.
“We’ll have candid conversations over the series, especially if they don’t pass the ball back to me,” he said. “But, for the most, we’ll play the game the right way, and we’ll make the right plays.”