Dec 31, 2012; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic shooting guard DeQuan Jones (20) shoots as Miami Heat center Chris Bosh (1) and power forward Udonis Haslem (40) defend during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Heat Left With More Questions Than Answers in Win Over Orlando

I am at a loss for words.

How did I reach this point? Simply by looking at Chris Bosh’s career statistics. The All-Star power forward has had his up-and-downs with the Miami Heat in his first three years with the team in the form of a 1-of-18 performance and a recent 40-point outing. Overall, however, he’s been a consistent source of offense and his mid-range game is integral to the Heat’s offensive success that thrives on finding ways to open up the lane for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Bosh is also shooting a career-high 55 percent from the field, while averaging 18 points per game.

Even his defense has improved. The 1.2 blocks per he’s averaging this season are the most he’s averaged since 2007 and the team is a only a few percentage points better on the defensive end when he’s off the court. That’s not bad for someone who is constantly being referred to as passive or soft. Bosh is buying more and more into the Heat’s defensive philosophy of making life difficult for slashers, which is allowing guys like Wade and James to utilize their energy more on offense.

Bosh is this team’s most important player. Not importance in the aspect of this team being able to thrive without him, but this team needing him in order for the offense to flow as it does. As the team’s most consistent mid-range threat, as well as being a big man who can shoot and take opposing power forwards and centers out of the paint, Bosh’s ability to space the floor is critical in getting good looks for the team’s slashers.

But it can’t all be perfect. Every team is going to have a weakness, including the Heat. They have trouble keeping agile point guards out of the lane, there are several individual defenders who have trouble keeping their man in front of them, and their focus wanes when pitted against an inferior opponent or given a large lead too early in the game.

However, this rebounding business is disheartening. We knew that rebounding would be a problem. The Heat were investing a lot of money into three players and it left little wiggle room for the team to sign someone who can dominate the boards. The coaching staff at the time didn’t think it was necessary, though. Bosh was coming off a career season with Toronto having just averaged a career-high 10.8 boards per and Udonis Haslem had just grabbed a career-high 10.4 boards per 36 minutes off the bench.

The Heat got a lot in the 2010 offseason, but they couldn’t have it all. Udonis tore a ligament in his foot early in the season that kept him out until the Eastern Conference Finals, leaving the rebounding burden purely on the shoulders of Bosh and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. The big Lithuanian had seen better years and could barely get off the ground, which surprised no one when he retired the next season, which narrowed down the rebounding responsibility to Bosh and Joel Anthony.

If you’ve watched any Heat game, you know the case of Anthony’s hands. It’s not pretty.

So the responsibility ends up falling on Bosh and LeBron James. Oh, but let’s not forget that LeBron is also doing everything else, so rebounding isn’t what you want James utilizing his energy on when he also has to facilitate and defend the opposition’s best player. We know LeBron can rebound–as we saw against Indiana last year–but there are far larger responsibilities for him to take on.

Basically, the rebounding falls solely on Bosh. You would assume with so few other rebounders on the team that he would end up taking advantage, much like how he thrived in a frontcourt in Toronto that featured a pitiful rebounding frontcourt with Andrea Bargnani. Chris ended up rebounding at least ten boards per three times in seven seasons with the Raptors.

In his first three years with the Heat, Bosh has had the worst rebounding outputs of his career since his rookie season. He averaged 8.3 in his initial year, 7.9 in his second and is down to 7.8 thus far, although the 8.4 rebounds per 36 minutes he’s averaging this season is his highest with the team. Those numbers are supported by an 18-rebound and 16-rebound outing, both coming against Milwaukee.

Over the past eight games, Bosh has recorded 10 or more rebounds on one occasion. His recent performance against Orlando probably being his worst of the season when you also consider just how dominant his assignment in Nikola Vucevic was. Vucevic was a cast-off of the Philadelphia 76ers in the trade that sent Dwight Howard to Los Angeles and Andrew Bynum to Philly. He has had a breakout season and was averaging 9.8 boards per going into the Magic’s meeting with the Heat.

After that meeting, he’s averaging 10.5 boards per. That’s what grabbing 29 rebounds can do. On a team that has featured the likes of Dwight Howard and an athletic Shaquille O’Neal, Vucevic ended up setting the franchise record for rebounds. He had more offensive rebounds (11) than the entire Heat team (8) and had more total rebounds than the Heat had defensive rebounds (24).

Give credit to Vucevic: He’s an excellent rebounder. However, he’s not Kevin Love nor is he Dwight Howard when it comes to rebounding. It was great rebounding but Vucevic, but putrid rebounding by the Heat. For most of the game, one Magic player was outrebounding an entire Heat team. The Magic are averaging 43 boards per, good for ninth in the league, but they were able to rack up 50 against the Heat.

Meanwhile, Bosh had four rebounds in 38 minutes. The Heat were led by LeBron’s eight boards, of course. Even 6’4″ guard Dwyane Wade had more rebounds with six. Mike Miller, the hobbling zombie, needed 17 minutes to grab three rebounds.

Is this something that Kenyon Martin can solve? Probably not. Even in the prime of his career, Martin’s best rebounding year came when he grabbed ten boards per. Most recently, he averaged 4.3 boards per with the Los Angeles Clippers; good enough for 6.9 per 36 minutes. He recently turned 35-years-old and, as I stated in a previous article, he would have been picked up by now if there was an NBA team that thought he was capable of being a rotation player.

Rebounding isn’t all about size. Does it help? Of course. But when it comes down to it, rebounding comes down to timing and knowing how to use your body. Chris Bosh has no excuse when Kevin Garnett, who has a similar build, led the league in rebounding four consecutive seasons averaging as much as 13.9 boards per. Even at the age of 35, Garnett was averaging more boards than Bosh at the age of 27.

It comes down to being aggressive, and this goes for the entire team because it is unfair to Bosh that he is the most able rebounder at the four and five spots. If you’re being outrebounding, there needs to be a group effort to take some control. The game becomes a lot easier when you win, or at least have some sort of control, the rebounding battle.

It’s the only reason why a Magic team playing without Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis was able to keep up with the Heat, who ended up having to play LeBron for nearly 48 minutes just to eek out a two-point victory.

 

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