For The Miami Heat, No Chris Bosh Means Big Problems

MIAMI, FL - MAY 15: LeBron James #6 and Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat high-five during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the Indiana Pacers at AmericanAirlines Arena on May 15, 2012 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Miami Heat lost Game 2 against the Pacers Tuesday, and with Chris Bosh's injury keeping him out indefinitely, the struggles for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade may not end there.

This should be self-evident, but just in case there's any confusion: when a team with three good players loses one of those three players, it's going to get ugly. Even if one of the healthy players is LeBron James and the other one's Dwyane Wade.

Welcome to the Miami Heat's reality without Chris Bosh. And our reality, too, since we're the ones who have to watch the ugliness play out on TNT every other night.

Miami's offense was a mess in Game 2 against the Pacers, and if Bosh is going to miss extended time, that's just the beginning. They can still beat the Pacers -- Indiana gave them every chance in a Game 2 that everyone was trying to lose down the stretch -- but more than anything else, Tuesday made it clear that Bosh's injury isn't something Miami can just shrug off.

Even if he's been underwhelming for most of his two years in Miami, Bosh is still enough of a threat to keep defenses from swarming Wade and James every time they drive the lane. He's the linchpin that allows everything else to click, because he pulls defenders out of the lane and gives the other two stars room to work. The numbers bear this out, as Mike Prada noted Monday:

This season, the Heat score over 111 points per 100 possessions when Bosh is on the court and less than 103 when he's not. The team's effective field goal percentage drops from just over 52 percent to about 47.5 percent. Worse, the percentage of the team's field goals that are assisted drops from 55 percent to 51 percent. You could look forever for a number to suggest that no Bosh is better for Miami's offense, but you won't find it.

Game 2 was more proof: LeBron and Wade were 18-44 against the Pacers D, including 0-6 from three. Nobody else on the roster had more than five points, and Miami shot 34 percent as a team. (Anytime you're counting on Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem to come up big on offense in the playoffs ... you're counting on Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem to come up big in the playoffs.)

And here's where it gets ugly: If LeBron and Wade struggled against the Pacers D in Game 2, imagine what'd happen against a team as dominant on defense as the Celtics. Or the Spurs. Or Serge Ibaka and the Thunder. All of those teams are better on defense than Indiana AND they'll have better scoring options than anything the Pacers come up with.

Meanwhile, with zero help from anyone else on the roster as Indiana swarmed the superstars, the Heat's crunch-time offense became "LeBron or Wade careen into a lane full of bodies and hope for the best."

It's not pretty. Miami can still win this week and beyond, but every win will take great defense and outrageous performances from LeBron and Wade. And even then, the offense will be an ugly, two-on-five basketball nightmare, with millions of free throws each night. So, next to the Dwight Howard injury, Derrick Rose's ACL and the myriad Knicks disasters, we now have Bosh's injury turning each Heat game into a grinding exercise in misery. Haven't the playoffs been fun?!

If it seems like we're selling the Pacers short, it's only because we're talking about the NBA's season-long title favorites suddenly looking more vulnerable than ever. Indiana can totally win this series, but that says more about where Miami is right now than anything about the Pacers. If Bosh doesn't come back, the Eastern Conference Finals will be even uglier than Tuesday's game, and if the Heat somehow make it to the Finals, there's no way this Miami offense can keep pace with the Spurs or Thunder.

For Bosh's part, he's said, "This season has to be extended for me to play." Doesn't inspire a whole lotta confidence. You can never write off a team with LeBron and Wade, but make no mistake: Without Bosh, the Miami Heat will be underdogs against every team they might play in later rounds.

You know, if they get that far.

Star-divide

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