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Burden on Bosh, Wade in challenging matchups; Dolphins, UM, Jameis, Marlins chatter

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Every time Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade struggles, the predictable narrative follows. Charles Barkley rants about LeBron James needing to carry all the Heat’s “dead weight” on his back. Others say it’s like James is back in Cleveland, wondering whether the lack of support will drive him away in free agency.

And then as is often the case, Wade or Bosh, or both, does something significant, as they did in Game 5 against Brooklyn. How both of them respond in challenging individual matchups in this Eastern Conference finals will be fascinating theater.

Indiana’s David West has thoroughly outplayed Bosh in Heat-Pacers games the past two seasons, and Bosh will defend West a lot in this series.

This issue goes well beyond scoring (West averaged 17.8 against Miami this season, Bosh 11.3 versus Indiana). It even extends beyond Bosh’s dismal 26 for 76 shooting in his past eight games against Indiana (34 percent).

This is especially troublesome: Over the past 14 meetings (dating to the start of last season), West has outrebounded Bosh, 114-60.

“When I coached Bosh [in Toronto], we went to Indiana and he fouled out Jeff Foster and Jermaine O'Neal and he’s going to have to go back in his memory bank and do that,” NBA TV’s Sam Mitchell said off air Friday.

“He’s the key. I’m OK with Bosh shooting jumpers but I also would like to see him put the ball on the floor and take it to the basket. You saw the problems Atlanta’s Paul Millsap gave West and Roy Hibbert. Bosh has to get them in foul trouble. Indiana doesn’t have a good matchup for him. He needs to pick his game up.”

Bosh, often positioned on the perimeter, attempted eight free throws in four games against Indiana; West shot three times as many against Miami.

As for Wade, he generally has played well against Indiana in the past and his 28-point outburst to close out Brooklyn punctuated an otherwise uneven series. But his primary matchup, Lance Stephenson, finished second behind Goran Dragic in Most Improved Player voting, and Stephenson can be an irritant who tries to get under Wade’s skin.

When Wade and Stephenson were on the court at the same time during their matchups this season, Indiana outscored the Heat by 36 points in 90 minutes, and Stephenson shot better than Wade (53.8 to 48.8 percent) and was more efficient (Wade had as many turnovers as assists: eight).

Including their 2013 playoff series (when Wade was slowed by a knee injury) and their games this season (when Wade was healthy),  Wade shot 43.6 percent when Stephenson was in the game, but 13 for 18 (72 percent) when Stephenson wasn’t.

“Lance talks about being an upper echelon player; now it’s time to show it,” Mitchell said. “If you can’t get the best of Dwyane now, with all the injuries and problems he’s had, when will you get the best of him?”

Please see the last post for details about what Stephenson said he wants to do to Wade in this series.

### It's noteworthy that Hibbert shot 1 for 10 against Udonis Haslem this season but 20 for 30 against everyone else on the Heat. But Hibbert had his way against Haslem, Bosh and Chris Andersen in last year’s playoffs (22 points per game, 56 percent shooting), so the Pacers aren’t calling Haslem a Hibbert-stopper.

“Haslem does a great job of using his low center of gravity against Roy to push him out,” Indiana’s Paul George said. “That compensates for Haslem’s [six-inch] height disadvantage.”

### Watch to see how James’ penetrations are affected by Hibbert. James shot 78 percent within five feet of the basket this season. But against Indiana, with Hibbert in the game, it was 65 percent.

### Mitchell insists Greg Oden must play at least 10 minutes a game – “this is what you signed him for!” – but Oden has logged just 13 minutes (and none in postseason) since Hibbert torched him March 26. Oden allowed Hibbert to shoot 5 for 6 against him this season. Everyone else in the league shot 14 for 43 against Oden.

### Among Heat concerns: Ray Allen’s horrendous shooting at Bankers Life Fieldhouse: 9 for 41 there as a member of the Heat.

CHATTER

### Several NFL people (including a longtime former general manager and a respected NFC scout) questioned the Dolphins for drafting this many small-school prospects (five), and even some inside the Dolphins don’t agree with it. The last time Miami selected so many FCS players was 1982 (Mark Duper and four others quickly forgotten).

“It’s risky,” the ex-GM said. “There are enough really good players from other schools to not have to do that. Some of them are not ready for the jump in competition.”

The scout said: “These kids have not faced the intensity, pressure and competition that kids at major schools do. It’s not a talent issue but the psychological and mental preparation to step up every day. FSU and USC kids practice every day against guys going to the NFL. These FCS kids may never see another NFL-type player at a practice or game [until postseason All-Star games]. It often takes them extra time to adjust to the NFL. That would concern me if I’m Miami.”

### If the Dolphins wanted to try to add an All-Pro and sell tickets, they could sign Saints restricted free agent and former UM star Jimmy Graham to an offer sheet. Miami would need to give up two first-round picks if the Saints didn’t match, but imagine a Graham/Charles Clay combo. But Dennis Hickey hasn’t inquired about it.

### Athletic director Blake James said UM intends to play FIU in football sometime after 2015 and that UF athletic director Jeremy Foley was receptive when James recently asked him about renewing the UF series. The Gators will agree only to a neutral site. “I would have to think about Orlando,” James said. “That’s not real neutral but it’s an easy distance to our campus.”

### For those hoping the UM/FSU talent gap closes, it won’t this season. ESPN analyst Todd McShay’s first mock draft includes five FSU players in the first 17 picks and six in the first round but no Hurricanes. The six FSU players: quarterback Jameis Winston, defensive end Mario Edwards, cornerback PJ Williams, receiver Rashad Greene, offensive tackle Cameron Erving and guard Tre' Jackson.

### Eyes rolled at FSU last week when Jameis Winston’s father, Antonor, asserted – in the wake of Winston stealing crab legs from Publix – that FSU “is supposed to have somebody around [Jameis] 24/7. He’s a Heisman Trophy winner so he’s definitely not supposed to be by himself.” FSU, dumbfounded by the suggestion, isn’t inclined to oblige.

### Jose Fernandez’s injury will save the Marlins very little (perhaps $50,000) in 2015 salary and hurts at the gate. His five 2014 home starts (including Opening Day) averaged 28,924 tickets sold. The Marlins’ 22 other home games averaged 19,230. Fernandez’s service time remains unchanged by the injury; he cannot be a free agent until after 2018.   

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