MIAMI — Chris Bosh didn’t wait long to get pumped over facing the Indiana Pacers in a playoff rematch from last year.
“As soon as Indiana won,” the Miami Heat big man said Monday. “Last time, it was more difficult because (our first) series got pushed out so long (to five games), we didn’t know who we were going to play.
“This time, Indiana took care of business (against New York) when they were supposed to, and we knew who we were playing right away. As soon as we saw Indiana playing us, we said, ‘All right, the enemy has a face.’ ”
The Heat and Pacers will begin this year’s Eastern Conference finals at American Airlines Arena on Wednesday night.
Miami rallied from a 2-1 deficit to beat Indiana in six games during last year’s conference semifinals. Bosh missed most of that series after suffering an abdominal strain in Game 1.
Bosh’s presence this time should be a key factor in Miami’s offense. His ability to step out and be a perimeter threat could force Indiana’s 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert to leave the paint and open space for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
“It’s going to be a big series for Chris,” Wade said. “Especially to knock down those shots and then from there to get aggressive and keep the defense guessing.”
Even at 6-foot-11, Bosh understands how pivotal his outside game can be.
“It’s a part of what I do,” he said. “I think it’s a weapon that we have that a lot of teams don’t have.
“It’s just doing what I’ve been doing for a while now: catch and shoot, catching and going, reading the situations and making it difficult. Making it difficult for Hibbert because he’s too good on defense if you let him lock up the paint and don’t give him anything to think about.”
Hibbert’s signature moment in Indiana’s series victory against the Knicks was a block of Carmelo Anthony’s dunk attempt late in the Game 6 clincher. But opponents have been aware of the center’s presence for a while.
“He’s the back line of their defense, so you always have to know where he’s at,” Wade said. “You just have to be smart. Sometimes you go in to attack, and sometimes you have to go in to make plays.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said it’s not as easy as it used to be to get the five-year veteran in foul trouble.
“He’s very disruptive back there,” Spoelstra said of Hibbert. “He’s big, he’s intelligent, he changes shots, he sees so many pick-and-rolls every night. He knows how to defend that without fouling. There’s no question he’s the anchor of their defense.”
As for Bosh, the Heat expect him to contribute more than just from outside.
“He’s given us unbelievable rebounds around the rim — he’s been double digits a lot of our games,” James said. “He’s been blocking shots, an unbelievable rim protector for us. We definitely need that.”
If last year’s playoff series is an indication, the conference finals will be intense and physical.
“You’re going to see bodies flying, a lot of bodies on the floor for loose balls on the floor,” Bosh said. “It’s what playoff basketball is supposed to be like.”
And this time, Bosh plans to experience the entire series in uniform rather than a suit and tie.
“Last year was a very difficult test for me, but I was able to pass it,” Bosh said. “I’m just thankful to be out there and have the ability to compete.”