Miami’s collective backs aren’t against the wall. The team isn’t a loss away from elimination as it enters Thursday’s Game 4, it’s just in a bit of trouble. If the Heat do better to nail their open perimeter looks, while clamping down on a Spurs team that is bound to regress to the mean on their own three-point attempts, Miami could walk out of San Antonio’s AT&T Center on Thursday with the home-court advantage back in its grasp, and three games to earn two wins and back to back NBA titles.
As a result, the Heat don’t have to play a desperate brand of ball in Game 4, but it also has to be mindful of the fact that this is the team’s 102nd game of the season, and that the teachable moments are done with. The Heat have to run with the horses they’ve got, and with Dwyane Wade dragging a leg, fellow All-Star Chris Bosh can’t continue to blow chance after chance on connecting on good looks from the field.
[Related: Spurs' Tony Parker 'ready to go' for Game 4]
This is why the Miami Heat have to stop giving Chris Bosh chance after chance.
Other, significant, changes have to take place. LeBron James has to end his damning trend of venturing further and further away from the rim as the playoffs have moved along. Mario Chalmers, injured or not, has to find some way to contribute if the perimeter jump shot isn’t going to be there for him. Wade has to learn to admit that his typically wily ways aren’t creating scoring options for himself or others, and that his presence is killing Miami’s spacing.
And Bosh’s role has to be reduced. The team can’t keep treating him like a priority, because he’s proven that the initial insistence in setting him up for those pick and pop jumpers that he nailed a ridiculous percentage of during the regular season is messing with the man’s confidence and messing with the Heat’s overall efficiency.
Bosh is a thinker. He’s a mindful, considerate person that isn’t afraid to stand up for himself or go against the tide. While that has done him quite well off the court, on the court recently he’s struggled to bow toward his team’s best interests while understanding that the occasional 25-point night from him are very much in the Miami Heat’s best interest. This delicate balance means having to dominate the ball in possessions even with the game’s best player just a skip pass away, while knowing that the most efficient and reliable go-to move in his arsenal (that jumper) is also the one that critics will dismiss in an instant if it catches rim.
Right now, it’s not working. And it’s not a sign of weakness or defeat if the Heat tightens ship and goes incessantly through LeBron James for a potential next four games spread out over the next week. It’s true that LeBron has played deep into June for three consecutive seasons, and that his international resume is rich, but James can handle this. And part of handling it means soaking that headband with sweat early on in order to build up reps and begin a free throw-earning routine.
In the past few games, it has been Wade and Bosh attempting to hold down the fort early on while James surveys the situation, leaving LeBron to attempt to swoop in to either turn in a brilliant (Game 2) or beleaguered (Game 3) performance based around those myriad offensive options he houses. San Antonio has done well to knock James out of his comfort zone for long stretches, but the Heat have been just as destructive in messing with James’ rhythm.
The Spurs have done the same to Bosh. Those perimeter jumpers (especially in Game 3) look quite makeable, but he’s just a step or two away from his comfort zones, in an uneasy middle in between the spots that would give him the obvious bank shot, or obvious straight-on jumper. Only a fool would expect there to be just two more games left in the Heat’s season, but with that 96-minute potential there the Heat have to value every possession.
This shouldn’t exclude Bosh, it would just turn him into the sort of player that can thrive off of broken plays, loose balls, and his superb mix of talent, timing and touch. The Heat shouldn’t need any other proof – when they draw up a play for Chris that he knows will end with him thinking his way toward aiming another jumper, Chris’ attempt at precision usually ends in a miss. He’s been aiming on shots during these “we gotta get Chris involved”-situations since the series against the Indiana Pacers, and those that don’t notice these patterns are often doomed to 3-1 deficits.
The pressure will still be on Chris Bosh even if Miami goes away from him offensively. The new starting role for Mike Miller means that Bosh, already undersized at center, will be the only true Heat big man working against a Spurs lineup featuring two traditional big men. And he’ll still feel that pressure, that literal aim to please, when the ball whips around and finds him some 17-feet from the basket off of a broken play.
He’ll have just a second to consider that aim, though, as opposed to the minutes of time in advance when he’s aware that a play for Chris has being drawn up. That crucial difference in preparation and perspective could be what vaults Miami right back into this series.
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