MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It’s sometimes hard to pin down just how important one player is for a team, but that’s far from the case in the Eastern Conference Finals for Chris Bosh and Kevin Garnett.
Bosh has missed the last nine playoff games and three weeks overall after sustaining a lower abdominal injury against the Indiana Pacers in the second round of the playoffs. Without Bosh’s outside shot and athleticism, opponents are feasting on the undersized Heat.
Garnett has gone over, through, and around anyone the Heat have put against him. But more importantly, every time LeBron James or Dwyane Wade turn the corner, Garnett has been waiting for them to contest the shot.
How tough has Garnett been on the Heat? According to ESPN.com, the Heat are -6 points per 48 minutes with Garnett on the floor. On the other side, when Garnett heads to the bench, the Heat are +24.5 points per 48 minutes. That generates a nearly 30 point swing for just one player.
The Heat have been extremely opportunistic when an opponent’s big is sitting on the bench. Combining the last two series, when Garnett and the Pacers’ Roy Hibbert were on the court, the Heat were outscored by 7.4 points per 48 minutes. The Heat outscored opponents by 33.2 points per 48 minutes when Garnett and Hibbert were out of the game.
Garnett’s defensive prowess could be at least somewhat reduced by the return of a healthy Chris Bosh. When Bosh is on the floor, his deadly outside jump shot will force the Celtics to extend the defense out from the basket to get a hand in Bosh’s face.
When the defense extends out to deal with Bosh’s shooting, it opens up lanes for both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to drive to the basket and either score or pick up fouls and get the Celtics into foul trouble.
But, the Heat have to also be concerned about how the team will re-integrate Bosh into the offense. Since his injury, LeBron and Wade have stepped up their games attacking the basket. Both players will need to retain that style, while also trying to get plenty of looks for Bosh.
The biggest question has to be is Bosh 100 percent, or at least near 100 percent. The Heat are quickly hitting desperation mode as the series is now the best two-out-of-three games.
LeBron and Dwyane Wade will continue to be the catalysts and the scoring power for the Heat. But, the Heat have to have Bosh on the floor and healthy if they want to make a return trip to the NBA Finals in 2012.