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The Chris Bosh effect

06.04.12 at 7:23 pm ET
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MIAMI — Kevin Garnett is a problem. During the 152 minutes he’€™s been on the court in the Eastern Conference finals he’€™s scored 82 points and grabbed 43 points. To put it in simpler terms: He’€™s getting 20 and 10 every night and there hasn’€™t been a whole lot the Heat can do about it.

They’€™ve tried Ronny Turiaf, Joel Anthony, Udonis Haslem and even LeBron James with varying degrees of success, which is to say, not that much. (Anthony has the best defensive numbers, but his start in Game 4 didn’t stop the Celtics from hanging 61 points on Miami in the first half.) No matter who the Heat throw at Garnett, they can’€™t counter the stark reality that he is taller, more athletic and more skilled than anyone they have to guard him.

There’€™s another issue here and that is that none of those three have much to offer in the way of offensive ability. Haslem can step out and make mid-range jump shots, but most of those tend to come off defensive breakdowns. It’€™s not like the Celtics wants him taking uncontested 15-footers, but it’€™s also not as if Miami is running a lot of action to get him those jumpers.

Without a scoring threat to defend, Garnett is thus free to roam the paint and cause havoc. When Garnett is in there to protect the paint, the Heat are shooting 62 percent at the rim. When he’€™s not they’€™ve made a shocking 22-of-23 shots at the rim. (That’€™s 96 percent, by the way. Ninety-six percent!) A KG with no one to check on the defensive end is a dangerous KG and the key to the Celtics’€™ halfcourt schemes.

The Celtics’€™ two wins in Boston have made this a three-game battle of attrition and all the lineup shuffling in the world can’€™t hide the fact that the C’€™s have two huge matchups advantages with Garnett and Rajon Rondo serving as the other. The Heat can’€™t do anything about Rondo besides throwing out numerous defenses and combinations that he seems to solve like he’€™s working over a Rubik’€™s Cube.

This is where Chris Bosh enters the picture. He’€™s been out since Game 1 of the Pacer series with an abdominal strain ‘€“ the same kind of injury that kept Garnett out of the lineup for nine games in 2008 ‘€“ and in that time the Heat did quite well, winning five straight games to close out the Pacers and the first two of this series. It seems clear that if Miami had its way, it would keep Bosh under wraps until the finals.

There’€™s no telling how much Bosh will be able to give the Heat, but just by stepping on the court he offers an offensive weapon that has to be guarded and there’€™s really no one on the Celtics’€™ roster who can check him besides Garnett. He’€™s too big for Brandon Bass and too skilled for Greg Stiemsma and Ryan Hollins.

Just having Bosh on the floor changes the equation dramatically for Garnett and the Celtics. Their defensive gameplan in this series has been predicated on doubling Dwyane Wade and James whenever possible ‘€“ mostly Wade ‘€“ with Garnett either serving as the first line of defense or the last line against everything else that happens.

“We’ve prepared every game like Bosh is going to play,” coach Doc Rivers said. “Eventually he will, and maybe tomorrow.”

If Bosh is able to play in Game 5 ‘€“ and if he’€™s able to be effective — the series takes on a completely new outlook. The small lineup that has proven so effective will have to be augmented. Garnett will have an important defensive responsibility and possibly Bosh will be able to slow down KG’s offensive game. That’s a lot to ask of a player coming from back an injury, but Garnett and the Celtics have forced the issue.

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Chris Bosh, Kevin Garnett,
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