Chris Bosh Answers Critics With Gritty Game 6 Finals Performance for Miami Heat
The third member of Miami's vaunted Big Three, he's often been reduced to third-wheel status as a player just fortunate enough to be sharing the floor with a pair of Hall of Fame teammates.
The statistical sacrifices he's made since migrating south in the summer of 2010 have been staggering. The 24.0 points per game scoring average he packed in his luggage has plummeted to just 16.6.
He went from a player responsible for nearly 30 percent of the Toronto Raptors plays while he was on the floor in his final season there to one tasked with fewer than 23 percent of Miami's possessions this year.
And those are nothing compared to the punitive damages he's been assessed in the court of public opinion. His critics cried that he was too much of a finesse player to effectively man the low block, too soft to withstand the physical rigors of life in the NBA post.
The numbers from Miami's season-saving 103-100 win in Game 6 seemingly lend credence to those critiques. In more than 38 minutes of work, Bosh managed just 10 points on 5-of-12 shooting from the field.
His San Antonio Spurs counterpart, the 37-year-old Tim Duncan, forced him to attend a complementary post clinic. The ageless wonder erupted for playoff-highs of 30 points and 17 boards, giving his team a tremendous chance to win a game in which Tony Parker's shot was M.I.A. (6-of-23) and Manu Ginobili was more reckless than he'd ever been (career-high eight turnovers).
But Miami Bosh had never been a player defined by his statistical output, even if his $17.5 million salary suggests that he should.
He's a fiery leader who never bites his tongue when tough talks are needed. But on a night when the Heat came frighteningly close to seeing their title defense bid come to a screeching halt, Bosh let his play do the talking.
And the well-spoken star never sounded so brilliant.
To be clear, Miami's never even within striking distance without a blistering fourth-quarter effort from LeBron James. The reigning MVP scored 16 of his team-high 32 points in the period, including a 25-foot triple that trimmed San Antonio's one-time 13-point lead to just two with 20 seconds left in regulation.
Without Bosh's crunch-time performance, though, James' performance is all for naught. After Spurs sophomore Kawhi Leonard split a pair of free throws following James' three, James fired off another long-range shot. But this one caromed off the front of the rim, kicked off the glass and floated above a pack of black jerseys.
But there was Bosh soaring above the smaller Spurs defenders. He snatched the ball over a leaping Ginobili, wrestled it away from some prying San Antonio hands and quickly found a backpedaling Ray Allen, who buried the game-tying three with only 5.2 seconds left on the clock.
When the overtime session rolled around, Bosh was the first player to get Miami on the scoreboard. He finished a layup through contact off of a James assist on the Heat's third possession of the period.
Miami would go on to score six more points in the period, which proved to be enough thanks to some timely defensive stops keyed by Bosh.
A James turnover gave the Spurs the basketball facing a one-point deficit with 40.5 seconds left on the clock. San Antonio went to its MVP candidate Parker, who lost James on a Duncan screen and left Bosh with a brutal matchup on the perimeter.
Parker drove hard to his right, then cut off his jets and pulled back for what looked like an open jumper. But the lanky Bosh recovered to the speedy point guard and deflected his potential game-tying shot.
The teams traded empty possessions, which forced the Spurs to foul Allen (a career 89.4 percent free-throw shooter) and the 17-year veteran calmly converted both of his foul shots.
That left the Spurs with 1.9 seconds to climb out of a three-point hole. It was a tall task for sure, but far from impossible for a team housing the new record holder for the most threes ever made in an NBA Finals in Danny Green.
Not surprisingly, that's exactly where San Antonio went.
A high screen from Tiago Splitter halted Allen's pursuit. That forced Bosh to chase the wing man from the top of the key to the far corner, where the two arrived almost simultaneously. Green's desperation attempt was devoured by Bosh, who fired the ball toward the rafters and propelled these teams to a winner-take-all Game 7 set for Thursday night (9 p.m. ET on ABC).
Even in the aftermath of one of Bosh's finest moments with the Heat, he's still fighting for his rightful recognition.
James is always the headliner for good or bad reasons and another finals triple double (32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds) earned him prominent position in the post-game coverage. Allen's been making the media rounds, too, thanks to that miraculous clutch bucket.
Bosh is the unsung hero once again, leaving an imprint all over the game's final score even if it didn't show up on the stat sheet.
You can call it tragic or maybe just karma for joining the league's latest manufactured superpower.
But Bosh knows this feeling all too well. He calls it business as usual.
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