Posted May 23 2011 7:10AM
MIAMI -- The series is getting intense, with bodies falling and tempers rising, and yet who would've thought in this atmosphere the Bulls would get their heads Boshed in?
Yes, that was Chris Bosh, thumping the Bulls in Game 3, along with his own chest after celebrating a nifty spin move and dunk that brought the house down and put the Heat up in the best-of-seven. Yes, that was Bosh, almost matching the scoring total of the more celebrated of the Big Three, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Wait. This was the same player who wondered aloud during the Boston series if he was too intimidated by the surroundings?
The same player who missed 17 of 18 shots against the Bulls during the regular season, which of course happened so long ago and therefore means little to nothing at this point?
The same player who's always publicly referenced as the No. 3, the caboose, the Ringo of the group and even downgraded as the half man (as in 2 ½ men)?
The final slap, or dig, or whatever you want to call it, to be applied to Bosh's ego and reputation came by Carlos Boozer, who before the series spoke about facing "their two great players." Um, just like those two players, Bosh played in All-Star Games and was a member of Team USA and was a solo star in Toronto, but such is the price paid when constantly compared to LeBron and Wade.
"It is what it is," Bosh said wearily.
Yes. Whatever. Laid back and even gentle by nature, Bosh was on his toes from the opening tip and made it look like he was back with the Raptors, doing whatever necessary to carry his club.
"I just wanted to come out here and be aggressive," said Bosh, and darned if he wasn't the liveliest player on the floor Sunday night, dropping jumpers, scoring 34 points and putting the Bulls in a bind.
Miami is a dangerous team when Bosh is as engaged and involved as The Other Two, and in Game 3 they were unbeatable. What's more, the Heat are unpredictably hard to defend in that situation, putting teams in a pick-your-poison dilemma, essentially deciding between taking an uppercut, a roundhouse right or a hard jab.
Given what Wade and LeBron did in Game 2, the Bulls decided to take their chances with Bosh and absorbed a 96-85 loss, and now trail 2-1.
"He put his imprint on the game right from the beginning," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, and normally, a Bosh imprint doesn't leave as solid a mark as a LeBron or Wade. And yet, it was a sight to behold, those two deferring often to Bosh, choosing to spoon-feed No. 3. Especially LeBron, who finished with 10 assists.
This was the second time in three games Bosh led the Heat in scoring, getting 30 in Game 1, when Miami took a 21-point beating. He made 13 of his last 15 shots in Game 3. It is always about intensity when it comes to Bosh, who brings out his best -- his beast? -- when the spirit moves him.
"I wanted to try my best to maintain my intensity and focus on the floor," he said. "I'm never going to get as many play calls, but I have to have a swagger and play aggressive."
The Bulls can still win this series, although you wonder how they can, at this point. The Heat are still undefeated in the playoffs at home and host Game 4 on Tuesday. Derrick Rose is being forced by Wade and LeBron to either give up the ball or take tough shots. Cracks are starting to show in the Bulls' composure, with Joakim Noah whining about calls and even lashing out at a fan in the first half (and possibly uttering the same word that got Kobe Bryant fined weeks ago). Mainly, Miami is giving the Bulls a dose of their own medicine, using defense the last two games to keep the Bulls from coming anywhere close to the 102 points scored in the opener.
Finally: If Miami is going to get this much from Bosh, and now with Udonis Haslem healthy and frisky, can the Heat possibly lose three of the next four? It will take a lot more than shaky shooting (41 percent in Game 3) for the Bulls to pull that off.
As much abuse as LeBron took last summer not only for leaving Cleveland but the way he left, few of his critics ever called his talent into question. Not so with Bosh, who endured a season where his talent and manhood was constantly being judged from the outside. Even fellow NBA players chimed in, which is normally taboo, mostly famously when Kevin Durant mocked Bosh for being a "fake tough guy."
Nothing fake about Game 3 from Bosh, though. It all seemed authentic.
"It's always going to be somebody throwing rocks," said Bosh. "I really don't care for it. I know who's in my corner, my teammates and my family. As long as we win, that's what does my talking."
That said, Bosh admitted the "rocks" do sting. He wouldn't be human if they didn't.
"Yeah, I think about it when I'm shooting," he admitted. "You can find inspiration in all different kinds of ways. It helps me out. It helps me gets some extra reps up.
"You know, I'm a good ballplayer."
It's all coming together. For Bosh. For the Heat. They are halfway to reaching their stated goal of playing for a championship, their Big Three seemingly standing on equal ground.
Shaun Powell is a veteran NBA writer and columnist. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
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