MIAMI ó The way the Heatís offense is humming along in these playoffs, perhaps Chris Bosh should take his time returning from injury.
Since Miamiís initial two losses to Indiana without Bosh, the teamís offense has exploded thanks to a combined effort by Dwyane Wade and LeBron James to get close to the rim. In Mondayís Game?1 win over the Celtics [team stats] in the Eastern Conference finals, 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.
"Thereís 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 Heatís ball movement in its half-court offense has improved since Bosh was sidelined with an abdominal strain.
"Itís not something that happens overnight," Spoelstra said. "This is two years of habits and learning each otherís strengths and learning whatís effective for us. Weíve had to change a lot of habits that guys have had for years for the improvement of our team."
The Heatís outside shooters were arctic-winter cold in Game?1 and Miamiís 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 Heatís 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, Iím more involved in the offense, and our team can kind of know exactly what weíre going to get out of us two."
During the Heatís four-game postseason winning streak, Wade and James have combined for 251 points. Thatís an average of more than 62 points per game for the dynamic duo.
"We have to execute a lot better," Wade said. "We donít have another guy that we can throw the ball down to and say íOK, get us a bucket.í?"
Without Bosh, Wade and James have thrived in the Heatís 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 donít have the luxury of having his 20 points."
To a degree, the loss of Bosh has simplified the Heatís 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 weíre used to, in a sense," Wade said. "Now, at no point am I saying we wouldnít want Chris back now. We would love him back right now healthy. But weíve made the adjustment we need to make with him out."
Bosh will not be available for Game 2 on Wednesday, but Spoelstra indicated after Tuesdayís 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. "Iím not getting ahead of ourselves, but itís nice to have him around."
People need to understand that in the era, teams win games based on the pace of the game. Having an all-star foward or Center slows the pace of the game dramatically and stagnates the game. You have two dominant fast players in LeBron and Wade that dictate the tempo of any game. You throw Bosh in there, and when you feed him the ball, the tempo has stopped favoring the Heat.
I expect the offense to "flow" better.
They need Bosh for the Finals though. The Spurs can adjust to any pace.