Can Chris Bosh step up his game against the Spurs?

Jun 7, 2013

Miami Heat big man Chris Bosh has struggled to make an impact during the 2013 NBA Playoffs, so what's wrong with his game right now?

Miami Heat big man Chris Bosh has not played well in the 2013 NBA Playoffs, and after another ineffective performance in Game 1 of the Finals against the Spurs, it's time to take a closer look at what he's failing to do on the floor. LeBron James has been as good as ever this year, but poor play from Dwyane Wade and Bosh has transformed the "Big Three" talk from previous seasons into a discussion about the new pyramid structure with James at the apex, hoping for more help from his teammates.

Bosh and D-Wade have both battled injuries and played through ankle and knee issues during the postseason, but there aren't enough excuses to cover their collective lack of production at this point. The geometry of Miami's offense has been altered without star play from Wade and Bosh, which has hurt the production of role players like Shane Battier and Ray Allen in the process.

Bosh has been especially frustrating, because he has seemed content to hang around the perimeter, space the floor and stay away from battles in the paint. Against the Pacers and physical big men David West and Roy Hibbert, he shot 37.7 percent from the field. Only 26 of his 69 shot attempts came in the paint in that series, and he converted a miserable 42.3 percent of those looks (11-26), according to the media tool at Game 1 against the Spurs continued this troubling trend.

Bosh scored 13 points on 6-16 shooting -- including a 1-4 performance in the paint -- in Miami's loss to San Antonio, and in the fourth quarter he only scored two points on 1-5 from the field. He's always been a jump shooter and a floor-stretching big, but in this postseason Bosh has become a passive player in big moments and the defenses haven't been forced to account for him often enough.

When the game gets tight, Bosh wants less to do with the paint. His lack of success in the lane has been a problem for Miami. The issue has been somewhat offset by hard cuts and putbacks from Chris Andersen, who's shooting an insane 80.4 percent (41-51) in the playoffs, but it's clear that Bosh could make a better effort to put pressure on help defenders by emulating Birdman's aggressiveness.

To put the chart in perspective, Bosh has under-performed in the paint relative to NBA averages, and he has taken far more mid-range jumpers (34-83 FGs, 41.0 percent) than shots in the paint (31-60, 51.6 percent).

The lack of production in the paint has hurt the Heat offense in tight games. Bosh is shooting just 5-21 (23.8 percent) when the score is tied and 45.7 percent (48-105) when the game margin is five points or less. In the last five minutes of close playoff games (margin five points or less) in 2013, the most expensive player on the Heat roster is 2-8 from the field (0-5 outside the paint).

So what can Bosh do to turn the tide? He diversified his offense in the regular season and especially excelled in three areas of offense that have suddenly abandoned him :

    Post-ups accounted for 12.4 percent of his offensive possessions in the regular season, and he scored 0.88 points per possession on those looks, which ranked No. 45 in NBA.
    Working as the roll man in pick-and-roll situations accounted for 17.7 percent of his offensive possessions, and he scored 1.17 PPP (No. 26 in the NBA).
    Off-ball cuts were 11 percent of his offense, and at 1.41 PPP he ranked No. 12 in the association.

The best areas of his game that made up over 40 percent of his offensive usage in the regular season have shriveled up during the playoffs. The plays and maneuvers designed to get him into the paint more often make him a better player for Miami, so he will need to tap into those strengths and push through his injuries to make an impact in the final few games of the year. A few more aggressive post-ups, a few more hard cuts to the rim off drives by James and some better angles of attack in the roll game could help turn things around. If Bosh has anything left in the tank, this is the time to use it.