Before the Celtics practiced on Friday, one of the things that both Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett mentioned was their belief that Chris Bosh is the key for Miami in this series. If Bosh can play well throughout — which would mean consistently outplaying Kevin Garnett — then Boston believes the Heat will be tough to deal with.
Here are the quotes, via Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com:
“LeBron and Wade are LeBron and Wade,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “They’re going to be great players before the series; they’ll be great players after it… But when Bosh plays great, then their team is great. He’s the key guy for them.”
Added Kevin Garnett, who will be matched up with Bosh, “When Bosh plays really well, they blow teams out. It’s not even close.”
It’s clear that Rivers has his team focused on Bosh, at least in the early stages of preparation. But a quick look at the way Bosh has performed in the four regular season meetings between the teams suggests that it may not be all that necessary.
According to the great NBA.com StatsCube, in the four games between the Heat and the Celtics this season, Boston performed far better when Bosh was on the bench. The Celtics scored an average of 96.1 points per game per 48 minutes on the season. With Bosh on the court for 146 of the 192 minutes played in those four head-to-head matchups, there was almost no difference: Boston’s average dropped, but just to 95.0.
But in the 46 minutes over those four games when Bosh was out? The Celtics’ average (again, per 48 minutes) plummeted to just 76.2.
Now of course, there are other reasons for this that aren’t necessarily Bosh-related, which include subs playing against subs, and the Joel Anthony effect for Miami’s second unit defensively. But it’s not like Bosh’s personal numbers were all that great against Boston, either.
Bosh averaged 18.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game on the season. Against the Celtics, he averaged 15 and 8.25, and the one game where he did break out for 24 and 10 was in the Heat’s 85-82 loss back on Feb. 13.
Despite all of this, Rivers and Garnett probably have a point. You know Wade and James are going to get theirs for the most part, and the drop-off in terms of reliable offensive performers for the Heat is pretty steep once you get past Bosh. And, maybe the reason the Celtics won three of their four games against Miami in the regular season was due precisely to a heightened focus on limiting Bosh.
It’s just that the numbers don’t necessarily show it.