MIAMI Chris Bosh is most appreciated when he doesn't play.
In March, the Miami big man missed three games and the Heat lost two, to Utah and the Lakers. That sparked a minor panic about Miami's lack of size.
Bosh soon returned and again was mostly forgotten about. The acclaim went to Heat perimeter stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Well, Bosh is out again. And, judging from Tuesday night's 78-75 Game 2 East semifinal loss to Indiana, it could end up being a major panic.
Bosh suffered an abdominal strain in Sunday's Game 1, and could be out for the remainder of the series. The Heat are looking for volunteers to step up in his absence, and nobody has raised a hand yet.
James scored 28 points and Wade had 24 in the loss at AmericanAirlines Arena that knotted up the series 1-1. But players on the Heat who don't have gold medals at home combined for a meager 23 points.
Take out James and Wade and the Heat couldn't have thrown the ball in the ocean off the deck of one of Heat owner Micky Arison's cruise ships. Nobody else scored more than five points.
"Offensively, we just went through a tough stretch," Wade said. "As long as Chris Bosh is out, we're going to miss Chris Bosh. Our team is set up for him to be there. But when he's not, we got to find a way."
The Heat didn't end up missing Bosh as much on defense as some might have been thought. Ronny Turiaf replaced him in the lineup but Joel Anthony came off the bench and gets most of the credit for neutralizing Pacers center Roy Hibbert, who shot just 2-of-6 for eight points. And Miami forced Indiana into 20 turnovers and 38 percent shooting.
But Miami missed Bosh's rebounding, getting walloped 50-40 on the boards, and, of course, his scoring. Heat players not named Dwyane Wade or LeBron James combined to shoot a disastrous 9-of-34 (26.5 percent).
"We will not be able to have somebody be Chris Bosh," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He is a major component of what we do, but we have enough and had some opportunities (Tuesday)."
The Heat certainly did have their chances. The final one came just before the buzzer when guard Mario Chalmers launched a potential tying 3-pointer that clanged off the iron.
"I had a good look at it," Chalmers said. "I felt like I was fouled on the 3 that I shot, but they didn't call it. Darren (Collison) got me for sure."
Nevertheless, if you're keeping score, the Heat are now 1-of-22 from 3-point range in the series, including 1-of-16 on Tuesday.
There were other chances. With 16 seconds left and Heat down 77-75, Wade drove in for a layup that James said he usually makes "nine, 10 out of 10 times." Instead, Wade, who was on the left side but used his right hand, said there was a "little contact" and he just "missed it short."
Then there was James at the free-throw line. He doesn't make nine of 10 or 10 of 10, but he did shoot 77.1 percent, the second-best mark of his career, from the line this season.
So much for percentages. James was just 8-of-13 on the night, including 4-of-8 in a fourth quarter that saw him miss his last three. The two misses that really hurt came with 54.3 seconds left and the Heat down 76-75.
"The game isn't lost or won with those two free throws but I definitely want to come through for my teammates," said James, who set a Heat playoff record with six steals. "But I'll get another opportunity. I know I'll be at the line again in that situation. So just go up and make them."
Next time, perhaps he won't be as tired. James played 43 minutes, including the entire second half. Spoelstra believed fatigue could have played a role in the misses.
"He'll never make an excuse," Spoelstra said. "I wish I could have gotten (James) a minute or two of rest in the fourth quarter but because of the hole we dug (a nine-point deficit) there was no way to do it."
With Bosh out, those in the renamed Big Two have to really step up their games. Before the game, both James and Wade had talked about needing to score more.
But James scored less than a point more than his seasonal average of 27.1 and Wade less than two points over his average of 22.1. That wasn't exactly what they meant.
Obviously, Miamis supporting cast must play better. But at the same time it wasnt as if a lot of Indiana players tore it up on offense. So youve got to figure the Pacers, who have plenty of guys to choose from, will get more of them going when they return home for Games 3 and 4 on Thursday and Sunday, respectively.
Pacers forward Danny Granger, who had averaged 21.4 points in a first-round win over Orlando, has been brutal so far in the series. After shooting 5-of-14 for 11 points while fouling out Tuesday, he's now 6-of-24 and averaging 9.0 points.
Perhaps frustrated, Granger whacked James under the basket midway through the fourth quarter. An unhappy James threw his arms up, and both players were assessed technicals.
"He elbowed me in my nose," James said. "I just tried to get him up off I'm not fighting. I can't afford to fight. I can't afford to miss no games I'm here to try dominate both offensively and defensively."
There also was frustration by Wade. He was assessed a flagrant 1 foul early in the fourth quarter for knocking down Collison.
Spoelstra predicted beforehand the series would be so physical it will "feel like it's played in a cage." Pacers coach Frank Vogel hasn't disagreed.
"We built this team, we started talking about smash-mouth basketball, about winning the war in the trenches, and that's with defense and rebounding," Vogel said of his team winning despite struggling offensively.
Maybe Bosh isn't exactly known as a tough guy. But what Vogel is preaching is exactly what Bosh has the ability to mess up.
"Scoring and rebounding," Chalmers answered quickly when asked what the Heat miss most about Bosh.
One of these days, though, Bosh will return and maybe he won't be forgotten. The Heat just hope they're still in the playoffs when it happens.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter@christomasson