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What’s Wrong with Chris Bosh?

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

After a nine-game cakewalk of a postseason up to this point, the Heat finally paid for their lack of consistent intensity Sunday afternoon, in a humbling Game 1 loss to Indiana.  They were soundly out-executed on both ends of the ball, cause for surprise even before the Pacers’ recent run of inconsistent play, and didn’t seem particularly interested in the gritty elements of the game Indiana will surely attempt to steer toward as much as possible over the course of the series.  They were also once again on the wrong end of a large 3-point shooting discrepancy, always a bad sign for them given their style – and though some of this is simple variance that should even out over further games, they say luck favors the well-prepared, and the Pacers were clearly the more ready team.

The Heat had issues across the board, but perhaps the most noticeable was one that’s been gaining steam since last round: Chris Bosh is struggling, at times badly so.  He’s often had trouble against the Pacers, but he was a liability on the floor Sunday, shooting 4-12 and collecting just nine points and two rebounds in over 31 minutes, during which the Heat were outscored by a team-worst 16 points.  Roy Hibbert, who three weeks ago had some experts calling for his removal from the starting lineup against a sub-.500 opponent, was way too much for a listless Bosh to handle.  But his issues haven’t been confined to this one game – Bosh has looked off for at least a week or two, and certain metrics paint the same sort of picture.

I wrote last week about the Heat’s rebounding issues as a team, and cited Bosh specifically for his poor showing on the boards against Kevin Garnett and Andray Blatche during Miami’s matchup with the Nets.  The same trend continued Sunday in Indy, the ninth time in 10 games this postseason where Bosh has failed to record double-digit rebounds and seventh of those same 10 where he’s failed to even reach six.  He’s never been a powerful player by any means, but he’s taken his unwillingness to absorb contact to new heights for much of this postseason, particularly for the Brooklyn series and Sunday’s opener versus Miami.

Starting with Game 1 versus Brooklyn, Bosh and, surprisingly, LeBron James have been by far Miami’s worst two rotation players in terms of on and off court rebounding discrepancy.  The team’s overall rebounding percentages have been at their worst with these two on the court and at their best when they sit – but like many on/off court elements, extracting responsibility for such issues, especially with two guys who share so much of their respective time on the floor, can be difficult (of Bosh’s 212 minutes since Game 1 vs Brooklyn, 185 have come with LeBron, per nbawowy).  Let’s look at some SportVU data for an assist here:

In that time, LeBron has had 49 rebounding chances (defined by SportVU as when a player is within 3.5 feet of an available rebound) and Bosh has had 45.  LeBron has recovered 38 of his chances, or 77.5 percent, but Bosh has pulled down just 24 of his, for 53.3 percent.  If we remove a leisurely Game 1 against Brooklyn where he snagged all 10 of his opportunities, he’s down to an even 40 percent, a miserable figure for any player, particularly one listed at 6’10.  These numbers aren’t perfect, of course, as more than one player can be within rebounding range on any particular board and not all rebound chances are created equal, but such a large discrepancy between the two appears to drop much of the blame for Miami’s poor rebounding with both on the court firmly in Bosh’s lap.  The mere fact that Bosh is in position for fewer chances than James over a six-game sample where the former spent a reasonable amount of time at center is strange, even despite their overall minutes difference (LeBron has played about five more minutes per game during that time).  Bosh’s film over the last couple weeks is filled with putrid efforts on the glass like this one:

He does a decent job against Hibbert in the post (including perhaps inducing an uncalled travel), but once the shot goes up, it’s as if the play has ended.  Bosh stands still and watches while Hibbert slides by him into position, then lazily reaches in across the body once Hibbert has the board and is already going back up for a crappy touch foul.  This has become commonplace, and too often recently it’s been the result of lazy play and a reluctance to make even basic contact down low.

Of course, he struggled elsewhere Sunday as well, clanging two corner 3’s in the game’s first minute and a half to set the tone for the sort of offensive game that’s become common for him against Indiana.  The Pacers let him shoot from distance, instead limiting his closer looks and preferred midrange game; he’s crashed back to earth from 3 since going nearly 70 percent against Charlotte, down into sub-30s territory since.  His inability to stretch the floor punctured Spoelstra’s plan to downsize offensively and move Hibbert away from the rim, and the Heat went back to a two-big lineup in the second half until a failed fourth-quarter desperation charge down double digits.  Bosh was predictably uninterested in leveraging his speed advantage on Hibbert into drives to the hoop, trying a couple times in semi-transition and even converting one but mostly sticking to his preferred finesse game.  Again, no one expected him to match Indy’s physicality, but to see him shrink from it so completely is worrying, especially given his play in recent weeks.

He’s was no better defensively, a half step slow against a Pacers pick-and-roll attack that, as Hickory-High bossman Ian detailed yesterday on FiveThirtyEight, well exceeded it’s typical output in such sets.  He sprinkled in some non-existent paint defense as a helper out of one simple Indy pick-and-roll:

Seriously, Bosh looks like an extra in a Jurassic Park movie trying to shield himself from an attacking pterodactyl in that clip.  He can’t be bothered to jump or even put a hand all the way up against David West in the post:

This kind of stuff is killing Miami – they were mostly average on offense by their standards and bad from beyond the arc, but still scored enough that a reasonable defensive performance would likely have done the trick given Indy’s recent issues.  Bosh’s performance in Game 1, along with some unusual lapses from LeBron, set the tone for an uninspired showing from the entire Heat team.  I mean, for goodness’ sake, Chris:

YOU JUST GOT BACK-CUT BY ROY HIBBERT, DUDE.  No one should ever have to write those words.

If we’ve learned anything in recent years, it’s that awakening the slumbering bear that is Miami can lead to some fairly ridiculous leaps in effort, so the expectation will obviously be for the Heat to rebound in a big way.  But their talent and athleticism advantages have dwindled, and there appears to be less room for error than ever before.  And as per usual, the Pacers are an entirely different animal against them.  We may just have ourselves a series here.

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