Bosh rises to the occasion
Miami forward plays a key role
With 25 seconds remaining in overtime, Chris Bosh positioned himself for an offensive rebound. He quickly found the perfect spot to score on a tip-in. Gracefully and easily, he tapped in an errant LeBron James jumper, providing just the kind of cushion Miami needed. Bosh celebrated the basket by pounding his chest with both fists and releasing a primal scream.
“That kind of emotion is always needed,’’ said Bosh. “It’s just how I felt at the time.’’
For good reason. Bosh could sense the play was a much-needed conversation changer.
Prior to last night’s Game 4, Bosh was criticized and mocked for disappearing during big games, for being soft, for struggling with sleep-related neck pain on a night when Rajon Rondo returned to the floor with a dislocated left elbow. Yesterday, all kinds of unflattering Bosh chatter filled time on sports talk shows, and space on sports websites. Today, it will be a different story, a turnaround tale that parallels the changed attitude that propelled Miami to a 98-90 victory at TD Garden.
“It’s all about having an aggressive disposition in the beginning of the game,’’ said Bosh. “Even if I missed some easy shots, some wide-open 15- to 18-footers, I knew I could knock those down. I felt that I was involved and that gave me a better frame of mind going into the rest of the game. I just wanted to be a presence on the boards and presence offensively. I think I did a decent job of that.’’
Some would argue he did more than a decent job. The tip-in and emotional release provided more Bosh highlight material in a game filled with big shots (20 points, 8 for 17) and big rebounds (12) from the power forward. Being productive on the boards helped Bosh stay aggressive and focused throughout the game.
“There has been so much discussion about Chris and usually it’s revolving around how many points he scores,’’ said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “I continue to remind him he doesn’t have to answer to anyone’s critics and expectations. He has a specific role for us. When he rebounds well, we usually win. When he focuses on his rebounding, defense, and covering ground, it generates a lot of good things for him. The main thing is to inspire us down low, big muscle areas, and he did that.’’
Like the tip-in, Bosh’s biggest contributions came at the most opportune times, namely the second half and overtime when he logged 15 points and 10 rebounds. It was a complete reversal from Game 3 when he finished with 6 points and 5 rebounds, then admitted afterward the enormity of the situation and the hostile Garden crowd played with his emotions and self-confidence.
Bosh called Game 3 a “huge teacher’’ for Game 4. He also said that sometimes you’ve got to “get smacked to learn a lesson.’’ Last night, Bosh proved a quick study when it comes to productively channeling his emotions.
“Before, the intensity of the crowd and my intensity that I was bringing, I was trying to control it too much instead of just letting it flow,’’ said Bosh. “In this game, I tried to have the least amount of hesitation as possible. If I had an open shot, I was going to let it go. If the drive was open, I was going to take it. That gave me an aggressive mind frame going in. It didn’t really happen very fast for me. But if I have a good, aggressive frame of mind in the beginning, usually things go OK.’’
The question is whether Bosh can sustain that aggressive mind-set when the series resumes in Miami tomorrow night. The backing of a home crowd will help. But Bosh knows it’s more about how he approaches the game, not all the noise around him.
He knows the Celtics will not be daunted by a hostile environment in Game 5.
When asked what he expected from Boston in the next game, Bosh said, “Everything they have. This is a veteran team with a championship heart. They’re going to come out swinging from the beginning until the end, no matter what the outcome is. We just have to be prepared for that.’’
Shira Springer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.