Are The Heat Better Off Without Chris Bosh?
After a disastrous game three without big man Chris Bosh in the lineup, out with a rib injury, Miami has hit its stride in its second round Eastern Conference playoff series against the formidable and determined Indiana Pacers. The Heat controlled the tempo in Sunday’s game four, with LeBron James and Dwayne Wade dominating and Udonis Haslem stepping up and playing extremely well in the interior.
Tuesday’s game five saw more of the same, as James scored 30, Haslem shot 5-6 from the field and Miami corralled 14 more rebounds than Indiana in a 22-point win at home. That does beg the question: Would the Miami Heat be better off the rest of the season without Chris Bosh in the lineup? For old time’s sake, I promise it’s still timely, here’s an article I wrote about Bosh one year ago today. How much has changed? You’ll be the judge…
Bosh’s Bullish Performance Highlights An Inconsistent Season
In a season that seems like it’s lasted an eternity for the Miami Heat and its fans, both the high and low points of Chris Bosh’s seasons have both been against the Chicago Bulls. On Sunday, Bosh improbably gave Miami a 2-1 series lead with a 96-85 win after playing some of his worst ball this season against the same Chicago team.
In three games against Chicago during the regular season, Bosh averaged 15.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, well below his 18.7 and 8.3 averages. He was certainly not living up to the expectations placed on him when Miami acquired him and pundits began calling the team “The Big 2 1/2″ well before Charlie Sheen jokes were en vogue.
The Heat and the Bulls were both big winners in the free agency sweepstakes Decision bonanza of last summer and were considered the favorites, along with Eastern Conference mainstays Boston and Orlando, to reach the NBA Finals. After a couple of bumpy losing streaks along the way, Miami was 42-15 just after the All-Star break, battling Boston for the top spot in the conference. Their only problem was that they could not beat elite teams like the Celtics, Lakers or Bulls.
On February 24, a Thursday night right after the most eventful trading deadline in at least several years, Chicago handed Miami a frustrating 93-89 loss. Blame for that loss fell squarely on Bosh’s large shoulders. Bosh was a distant third in the Heat’s version of the Big Three, the LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Bosh triumphant troika. His demeanor often seemed awkward and passive and he had games where he would make little impact and vanish in the box scores. Miami wished the latter had happened on that Thursday.
Bosh shot a historically bad 1-18 from the field in that four-point defeat, the worst shooting night for a player with at least 18 shots since the 1972-1973 season. The next day, Chicago Sum-Times writer Dan Cahill astutely pointed out that “you have to be a pretty good player because your coach has to have confidence in you to stay in the game, and your teammates have to have faith in you to keep feeding you the ball.”
Miami never lacked confidence in Bosh despite his occasional sub par performances. That confidence paid off nearly three months to the day of the worst performance in Bosh’s NBA career. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, Miami had to get past the same Chicago team that had given them the most problems during the regular season to reach the NBA Finals, where the Heat had to go to reach their extraordinarily lofty expectations.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not, Bosh’s best game of the season came against the Bulls in a crucial game three that Miami would probably have lost during the regular season. Mainstays James and Wade were off their games, shooting a combined 12-30 for 39 points. When two of the best players in the league don’t even combined for 40, the opposition usually has at least a decent chance to win. But this was the night the oft-passive Bosh chose to assert himself, prove his value and carry his team to an important playoff win.
Bosh showed incredible range on his shot, going 13-15 for 34 points after missing his first three shots from the field in Miami’s 96-85 game three win that kept the Heat undefeated at home in this postseason. In an interesting twist of fate, something that seemed nearly impossible three months ago, Bosh is the scoring leader in the Eastern Conference Finals.
“C-B had it going,” James said after Sunday’s win. “When we have someone going on our team, we continue to go to him.”
Against the team Bosh had his worst game against, he is now playing his best basketball. After dismal averages against Chicago in three regular season games, Bosh is averaging 24.7 points per game in the postseason. Perhaps Bosh and the Heat will live up to those expectations after all.