May 13, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; dMiami Heat power forward Udonis Haslem (40) shoots over Indiana Pacers shooting guard Paul George (24) during the second half in game one of the Eastern Conference semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Miami won 95-86. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
One could easily find him or herself confused after reading the comments from the Heat personnel about All-Star power forward Chris Bosh's strained abdominal muscle. He is officially listed as out indefinitely. LeBron James said he's preparing as if Bosh won't be available for the remainder of this series. Erik Spoelstra said that he and others feared a worse injury, so the MRI results were good news. Bosh said that he's not sure if he'll return this series, but added that "the season will need to be extended for me to play," a statement that one could interpret in a plethora of ways.
Will Bosh return for the Eastern Conference Finals if the Heat beat the Pacers? The Finals if the Heat advance that far? Who knows?
For now, let's operate under the assumption that Bosh will not return for the balance of this series. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade spurred a strong Heat second-half without Bosh to win Game 1 Sunday, but Bosh's absence extends to the two superstars and beyond.
Perhaps the most significant consequence of Bosh's injury is James' play and minutes. The three-time MVP said that he doesn't expect to start at the power forward - the Heat simply started the second half of Game 1 with Ronny Turiaf in place of Bosh - but he probably will spend a good deal of time there. He defended David West well when he played the four Sunday, forcing the two-time All-Star into 2-of-7 second-half shooting. James could also defend Tyler Hansbrough, mainly a pick-and-pop player, while using his quickness on offense to drive to the basket against Indiana's power forwards. James could force Indiana to downsize and put Danny Granger or Paul George at the four, neutralizing the Pacers' inside advantage.
The bad news? James' minutes will undoubtedly increase. He played the entire second half Sunday, and Spoelstra indicated that he'd play James for "40-plus" minutes. Some have attributed James' heavy load of minutes in the playoffs last year - as well as chasing opposing guards on defense like Derrick Rose or Jason Terry - to his sub-par performance in the Finals. James played at least 42 minutes in 15 of Miami's 21 postseason games last year. The Heat will have to rely on James with Bosh's absence, so the best the Heat can hope for is for Philadelphia and Boston to fight a long series and the Heat to finish off the Pacers fairly quickly.
James and Wade will take more prominent roles in the offense, but those two players have always performed well. Miami will need some timely contributions from the players who have played inconsistently this year, though. Joel Anthony had a great game Sunday, with Alonzo Mourning calling him the "Chevy MVP" of Game 1, but will he grab seven boards again?
Although Anthony and Turiaf provided energy Sunday, neither of them will attempt any mid-range jumpers like Bosh routinely does. (As an aside, Anthony's lack of offense actually helped Miami in his fourth-quarter pick-and-rolls with James. Roy Hibbert ignored Anthony when he set the screen, knowing he won't operate a pick-and-pop. But Hibbert gave James open jumpers after Anthony set the pick.) Udonis Haslem has been off with his shot all year long, but he needs to knock down those open shots. He tried to attempt hook shots and drive to the basket one-on-one in Game 1, neither of which has ever been in his offense repertoire. Haslem should stick to his game - pick-and-pop - and hopefully he'll make a few.
Additionally, the role of the Heat's 3-point shooters becomes more important. The Pacers will simply pack the paint to prepare for the drives of James and Wade if Haslem and the 3-point shooters can't knock down their jumpers. Miami failed to make a single 3 in Game 1, but Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller and Shane Battier need to help space the floor for James and Wade. Spoelstra also shouldn't hesitate to insert James Jones in the game. He's one of the best 3-point shooters in the league, and he helped Miami defeat the Boston Celtics in the second round last year.
The Heat should be able to defeat the Pacers without Bosh. Miami should also win a best-of-seven series against the Sixers or a banged-up Celtics team without their third-best player. But if the Heat face a healthy Boston team or whichever team comes out of the West, it would be wishful thinking to think Miami could win. For now, though, the Heat should solely think about the Pacers. Everyone will need to dig a little deeper for Miami to defeat this team.