The Chris Bosh Disappearing Act

“We can state the obvious: They’re [Bosh and Wade] both struggling,” LeBron James said prior to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers.

While the Heat have since gone on to the NBA Finals, so, too, have the struggles of James’ sidekicks.

In Game 1 of this year’s NBA Finals against the well-rested San Antonio Spurs, the Heat’s heat flamed out in the fourth quarter as they were outscored 23-16 by a methodical Popovich team that kept plugging away one critical possession at a time, tying their own NBA record for fewest turnovers in a Finals game.

If the Heat don’t raise the red flag and put an end to Bosh’s continued reliance and belief in the three point shot, they will be raising the white flag of surrender as they get steamrolled out of the Finals.

Standing at 6’11″, Chris Bosh has always been a finesse player. But he has also been a head smart, savvy talent, too, that has known when to mix it up. Since joining the Miami Heat, Bosh has taken off the hat of a team’s superstar and settled, taking shot after shot miles from the rim that he would not have dared launching when with the Raptors.

Nevermind Chris Bosh’s decline in points per game. That’s a given when you join up with two other superstars of Wade and LeBron’s caliber, the latter arguably the most dominant player the NBA has seen since Shaquille O’Neal wore purple and gold.

It’s his shot selection.

Let us compare the numbers. In Bosh’s first three seasons with the Raptors (2003-06), he attempted a total of 37 three pointers. Fast forward to 2012-13 with Miami. Chris Bosh launches 74 from downtown with 21 falling through the net (28%, not exactly a high percentage shot from your 6’11″ anchor).

The more movement away from the paint, the less opportunity you have to help your team on the boards — and a pretty good reason the Heat are THE worst rebounding team in the NBA this year.

It is as if they take pride in it.

In a December 19 game against the Minnesota Timberwolves in which the Miami Heat were outrebounded by a 2-to-1 margin (53 to 24), Erick Spoelstra had this to say.

“Rebounding helps, but there are a lot of other factors for rebounding. If you go through the statistics in the playoffs and ranked them, that isn’t necessarily the biggest key.”

Which is why the Heat were about this close to watching the Hoosier state punch their tickets for this year’s NBA Finals while they took their rods and reels and Nike’s and went fishing down in South Beach.

In just three years, Bosh’s career rebounding average has declined from 10.8 RPG his last year in Toronto to an abysmal 6.8 RPG this year with Miami.

What’s even more alarming is the further declining rebounding rate we have witnessed from Bosh since being pushed around by Roy Hibbert and David West in the Indiana series (4.3 RPG). Then in Game 1 against the lengthy Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter, Bosh snags a mere five rebounds. While Miami won the battle of the boards (46 to 37) against the Spurs in a 92-88 Game 1 loss, their big (Bosh) was out in no man’s land calling for the rock when he should have been vying for position on the block.

“Look,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said following the Game 1 loss, “We’re not going to overreact to those misses. He [Bosh] was open. He hit some big ones already.”

He was open for a reason Spoelstra. It’s because he is 6’11″ and shoots 28% from downtown. Better out there than grabbing a putback dunk off a James penetration.

The three-point stripe and European influence have long been whispering to NBA bigs for quite some time to “step on back here and jack one up.”

And Bosh has welcomed it much to the detriment of his team and to his own game.

If the Heat plan to make this a series and win not one, not two, not three but seven rings (and one up Jordan and Pippen — good luck), Bosh better park his behind in the paint and play like Pat Riley will send him back up north across the border if he doesn’t.

And Dwyane Wade? Well, let’s just say a scoreless fourth quarter is its own story.

Thunder Earns 11th Straight Victory

The Oklahoma City Thunder evened its series with the San Antonio Spurs with a 107-93 victory at the Chesapeake Energy Arena Monday. Serge Ibaka led all scorers with 25 and led all rebounders with 17.

GAME NOTES

-Serge Ibaka scored 25 points and pulled down 17 boards. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook didn’t have their best scoring performances. Instead, OKC relied on Ibaka who took three more shots than Durant.

-OKC’s defense stepped up in the third period. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan combined for just 11 points in the second half and Parker had just one assist.

-Serge Ibaka was asked after the game if he played better because he was motivated by Stephen Jackson’s tweets earlier this month. His response: “I respect your job, but I don’t want to talk about it.”

-Russell Westbrook was asked the same question about Ibaka. Westbrook’s response: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

-Gregg Popovich sat his starters in the fourth quarter after OKC opened an 18-point lead. Manu Ginobili didn’t play either due to a left quad contusion.

-The Thunder moved to a league-best 20-4 while San Antonio dropped to 19-7. The two teams are heading in opposite directions as OKC has won 11-straight and the Spurs have dropped four of their last six.

 

QUOTES

-”It’s hard,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said after the game. “I tell people this all the time, I couldn’t do what he’s (Ibaka) done-go to this country and produce like he’s producing here. It’s a credit to him and the organization.”

-”He’s (Ibaka) gifted,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after the game. “You have a four-man who can spread the court and shoot it like that, it makes it tougher on everybody. That’s why there’s so many shooting four’s in the league.”

-”I didn’t want to play him (Stephen Jackson) that many minutes, but he’s a hard guy to get off the floor,” Popovich said. “He likes to be out there, but we finally convinced him to get off the floor. After all this time off, 18 was plenty, probably a little too much.”

 

STATS

-Serge Ibaka: 25 points / 17 rebounds / 3 blocks

-Kevin Martin: 20 points (7-10 shooting)

-Thunder: 49 rebounds, Spurs: 37 rebounds

-Thunder starters: 77 points, Spurs starters: 49 points

 

Why the Spurs Lost:

-It might have had something to do with the absence of Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard, but the main reason they lost is because they stopped scoring in the third quarter. They only scored 16 in the third while Oklahoma City poured in 29.

Why the Thunder Won:

-Serge Ibaka. If it weren’t for Ibaka, the Thunder could’ve very easily lost to San Antonio for the second time this season. Durant and Westbrook didn’t have it going, but Ibaka stepped up and carried the team. He led the way the entire game and was the most intense player on the court during his 38 minutes.