Chris Bosh should keep coming off bench in Finals for Miami Heat

Chris Bosh should continue to come off the bench for the Heat in the Finals. (Getty Images)

OKLAHOMA CITY -- It's still hours before the ball goes up in Game 1 of the NBA Finals Tuesday, and we have our most interesting tactical dilemma: What does Erik Spoelstra do with Chris Bosh in this series?

Or, better put, what should he do? 

Bosh came off the bench in the final three games of the Eastern Conference finals against Boston after returning from a lengthy absence due to a strained abdominal muscle. His minutes and production improved with each game, and so did the Heat's performance. So while there's no doubt that, if anywhere near 100 percent, Bosh is a starting player for any team in the NBA -- even a team that has LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

But that's not the point. The point is, what gives the Heat the best chance of winning a championship over the next two weeks? And I believe Spoelstra will realize -- if he hasn't already -- that staying the course with Bosh coming off the bench is the way to go.

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There are strong arguments to be made against this, not the least of which would be that if Bosh is on the floor when Serge Ibaka is on the floor, he could effectively draw the league's leading shot-blocker out of the lane and onto the perimeter. This is no small factor. If Ibaka is permitted to roam the paint with impunity, James and Wade will have a far more difficult time finishing at the rim. And as the Mavericks proved in last year's Finals, the best formula for beating the Heat is to turn James and Wade into jump shooters.

But the arguments for staying the course with Bosh as a reserve are more compelling. For one, the Heat know they're going to get the bulk of their scoring from James and Wade. But to beat the Thunder, they're going to need bench production. And with OKC holding homecourt advantage -- and a significant one, at that -- they can't rely on the likes of Shane Battier and the physically compromised Mike Miller to carry them on the road. Bosh gives them reliable offensive production off the bench that Miami hasn't had all year.

This is what James said after beating the Celtics Saturday night, with Bosh going 8-for-10 for 19 points in 31 minutes as a reserve.

"We haven't had that type of activity, that firepower off the bench since we got here," James said. "It's unique. It's very unique that CB is coming off the bench, but it may be something great for us."

When pressed on whether it was an interesting debate about starting Bosh or bringing him off the bench, James said, "I don't think it's interesting. I don't think it's interesting at all. We've played some good ball. It doesn't matter who starts; it's who finishes the game. James Harden doesn't start, but he's always on the court at the end of the game. Jason Terry doesn't start, but last year in the Finals he was in the fourth quarter every game. CB didn't start (Saturday) night, but he was in the fourth quarter. ... It's about who is being productive. That's what it boils down to."

Yes, it is. And in this case, James is right. As a reserve, Bosh can give the Heat the best of both worlds: the scoring punch they've been searching for off the bench in the middle of the game, and the floor-spacing that James and Wade need at the end to close. 

Pretty easy decision if you ask me.
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Ken Berger began covering the NBA when Kobe Bryant was a rookie. Somehow, he'll outlast him. Ken has multiple top-10 finishes in the APSE writing contest and one championship to his credit - the 2015 Metropolitan... Full Bio

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