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2012 NBA Playoffs, Pacers Vs. Heat: Can Miami Withstand The Absence Of Chris Bosh?

A collective grown echoed through South Florida on Monday morning when an MRI revealed that Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh had a strained abdominal muscle. That injury removes one third of Miami's terrifying troika of Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. It also leaves plenty of fans and experts wondering whether or not the Heat's playoff hopes are over.

A few ugly instances of play aside, James and Wade did a remarkable job of keeping their team's hopes alive in Game 2 on Wednesday night. Without the play of those two, a mere three-point loss could have been much worse. Nevertheless, it was clear the Heat missed Bosh's presence on the court.

Why is Bosh so important to the Heat? SB Nation's Andrew Sharp explains.

Even if he's been underwhelming for most of his two years in Miami, Bosh is still enough of a threat to keep defenses from swarming Wade and James every time they drive the lane. He's the linchpin that allows everything else to click, because he pulls defenders out of the lane and gives the other two stars room to work.

And the danger to the Heat without Bosh?

And here's where it gets ugly: If LeBron and Wade struggled against the Pacers D in Game 2, imagine what'd happen against a team as dominant on defense as the Celtics. Or the Spurs. Or Serge Ibaka and the Thunder. All of those teams are better on defense than Indiana AND they'll have better scoring options than anything the Pacers come up with.

The Heat can avoid Western Conference threats the Spurs or the Thunder until the finals. The winner of the series between the 76ers and the Celtics poses a more immediate threat. Of course, they have to get by the Pacers first, and suddenly, that looks like a much taller order than it did on Sunday morning.

For more news, analysis, and discussion on the Heat, visit Peninsula Is Mightier and andSB Nation Tampa Bay. For the opponent's perspective throughout the series, check out Indy Cornrows and SB Nation Indiana. And for all your news and notes on the playoffs matchups, visit SB Nation's dedicated NBA hub.

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.