Posted Jun 5 2011 11:27PM
DALLAS -- On Miami's most important play of the game, with time tick-tick-ticking and the game slip-slip-slipping, the ball snaked around the floor and plopped into Chris Bosh's hands -- which was the No. 2 surprise of the night.
Number 1? He made the shot.
Well, well. The Big Three member who stumbled through the first two games of this championship series, and whose defensive lapse earned him the goat of Game 2, and who misfired through much of Game 3 wound up a better option than Dwyane Wade and LeBron James in the moment of truth.
The sellout crowd, sensing and bracing for another tremendous comeback by the Mavericks, wanted a guy from Dallas to drop the biggest shot of the night. And when that happened, everyone groaned.
Bosh was born and raised minutes from the spot where he took the jumper, a feathery and wide-open 18-footer on the baseline that was the difference-maker in an 88-86 Heat victory. It probably won't stop folks from picking on and picking apart Bosh's game and reputation. That's a spectator sport at this point. But the plain truth is the player accused of being soft didn't shrink under pressure, didn't dissolve into the half-man he is mocked to be, didn't ruin Miami's chance to assume a 2 games to 1 advantage.
He didn't hesitate with the ball, or freeze like so many players who are uncomfortable in that position. He just let it fly, and the shot was true. All of a sudden, it was Bosh and not Wade or LeBron or even Dirk Nowitzki who left the arena with the sweetest offensive memory. He made 7 shots, two fewer than Games 1 and 2 combined, none bigger than the last one.
If Bosh's shot spoke volumes about him, the fact his teammates sought him out screamed even louder. Wade (29 points) was the hottest hand on the floor all night for Miami, and he passed to LeBron. LeBron bailed out the Heat in these late moments through much of the post-season, but he, too, took a pass. Or rather, he gave a pass to Bosh instead of lapsing into one-on-one isolation, which is usually LeBron's mentality with the shot clock expiring.
Miami is at its worst when going isolation, so this was precisely the kind of offense that Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had been trying to get his team (mainly LeBron) to accept in such a moment: moving the ball rather than going solo.
"That's fundamental basketball at its best," said Spoelstra. "That play wasn't designed for him. We hit the open guy. It's the right play. When you see an open man, you hit the open man. It was good to see him knock that one down."
LeBron: "I don't care if he missed 15 in a row. He was open and I was going to pass it to him. That's his sweet spot."
To say Dallas hasn't been kind to one of its own is an understatement. Bosh was 0-for-8 lifetime in American Airlines Center until last night. And minutes into Game 3, he was sliced in the eye by Jason Kidd. When he dropped to the floor as a result, you could almost hear the snickers in the basketball world, with Bosh's toughness once again raised like a cocktail glass in a bar.
"Things are gonna happen," Bosh said, "but it's not about that, it's about how you react."
Then Bosh missed a handful of shots, some at point-blank range with little to no defensive resistance, and was 2-for-9 shooting in the first half. But that was all a foggy and forgotten memory when he hit the game-winner.
"I knew I was going to have an open shot," he said. "I just wanted to have good form and follow through. We've been making the right play. We trust each other. If you can trust somebody and hit them real quick, I think that's great."
The shot by Bosh not only rescued the Heat, but mainly LeBron, who for the second straight game was mainly invisible in the second half. LeBron scored only 2 points in the fourth quarter (17 for the game) and took only 3 shots. He often gave the impression he wanted someone else to be a hero. He passed up shots and instead force-fed the ball to Wade.
At one point, Wade approached LeBron and seemed animated, almost scolding LeBron for being so passive at such a sensitive point in the game.
Wade also had words for Bosh, so at least one of his teammates responded.
"I still have to work on the flow of my game a little more," said Bosh. "If they kick it to me, I just have to be aggressive. I just have to make decisive moves. I don't have to be quick or fast. I have to have confidence in my shot, and my teammates have to have confidence in me, too."
Even if nobody else has confidence in Bosh, his teammates went against the trend and trusted him on the final possession of the night. After trying and coming up empty so many times in his NBA career when playing in Dallas, Bosh finally felt at home, and just by coincidence, finally arrived in these NBA Finals.
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