The Miami Heat have a Big Three, not a Big Two.
Even though LeBron James and Dwyane Wade continue to draw the vast majority of headlines and overall attention, Chris Bosh just keeps thriving down the stretch of big games. It's a continuation of what he's done all season, as he's no stranger to knocking down big three-pointers in the clutch.
Bosh finished the 98-96 victory over the San Antonio Spurs with 18 points, three rebounds and two assists, but he stood out at the very end of the contest, virtually sealing Game 2 with his contributions.
First, the big man spotted up on the perimeter, setting himself up perfectly for a kick-out from a driving LeBron. Just as the four-time MVP has done so many times throughout the 2013-14 campaign, regular season and playoffs included, he found his way into the lane and made the right basketball play.
After getting around his man by virtue of his quick first step and a screen from Mario Chalmers, James swung the ball out to Bosh, who was waiting for his second three-point attempt of the night.
In the back of Bosh's mind had to be the previous look, which he'd missed less than a minute earlier from only a few strides to his right. But Bosh let the past remain in the past, coolly letting the jumper fly, and it found the bottom of the net to give Miami a 95-93 lead that it would never relinquish.
Allen on Bosh’s go-ahead 3-pointer: “We have guys who practice their shooting all the time. When the time comes, we trust them.”— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) June 9, 2014
Bosh wasn't done, though.
Miami got the ball back after a missed jumper by Manu Ginobili while there were only 28 seconds left on the clock. Instead of calling for his Spurs to foul, Gregg Popovich instead decided to play out the possession, attempting to get one stop and keep it a one-possession game.
However, Bosh had other plans.
After he received the ball outside the three-point arc, he put it on the deck, driving into the teeth of a scattered defense and deftly dishing the ball to Wade for an easy two points. It was the dagger in a close game, and while Wade will ultimately get credit for the bucket that put the contest out of reach, that play was 100 percent Bosh's creation.
Is it any wonder Erik Spoelstra couldn't help but sing the big man's praises after the game?
Spoelstra with high praise for Chris Bosh: "He absolutely has championship DNA."— Quixem Ramirez (@quixem) June 9, 2014
Unbelievably, that wasn't as effusive as the remarks got.
Erik Spoelstra on Chris Bosh: "With us, arguably our most important player and it’s not just because of that shot."— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) June 9, 2014
I'm not sure if I'd go that far. After all, there's a certain No. 6 who's still on the Miami roster, and his cramp-fueled exit from Game 1 showed just how important he was to a team that absolutely collapsed without him on the court.
Additionally, the Heat were actually outscored by 11 points in Game 2 while Bosh was playing, though that mostly just goes to show you how flawed the plus/minus stat can be with such a small sample. Though San Antonio did technically score more points while he was on the floor, it was hardly his fault, as he played a good game from start to finish.
Now, back to Spoelstra. It's telling just how highly the Miami head coach thinks of the man commonly considered the third wheel of the Big Three. That's readily apparent when you listen to him talk, and it's also easy to recognize when you take a gander at some of the plays that have been called.
Earlier in the season, the big-moment triples were flowing in.
On December 1, Bosh scored 13 consecutive points against Charlotte—including a trio of triples—to help complete the comeback and extend an early winning streak to 10 games:
Later that month came his game-winning three-pointer against Portland:
And in early January, he forced overtime with another big bucket, this time against Atlanta:
As Bleacher Report's Dan Favale wrote after the Rip City basket, Bosh has statistically been the most clutch big-name player on the Heat. Yes, more so than LeBron, Wade or even Ray Allen (Game 6 heroics included):
The stats show that, with 10 seconds or less remaining in a game, and his team in need of a game-winning or game-tying basket, Bosh has been the most consistent of the Fab Four. He's the only one to have plus-clutch ratings—these instances only—in his career, since 2010-11 and since 2012-13. The others have simply waffled back and forth.
Apparently, nothing has changed throughout the rest of the 2013-14 season.
According to NBA.com's statistical databases (subscription required) Bosh has been absolutely incredible this year when his team is down five points or tied with less than five minutes remaining. He's shooting 53.7 percent from the field in those regular-season situations, but even more impressively, he's knocked down 14 of his 25 attempts from beyond the arc.
That's 56 percent.
During the playoffs, a similar story has unfolded.
Heading into Game 2, he was 3-of-9 from the field and 3-of-8 beyond the arc, but those numbers are even more impressive now. A 4-of-11 mark is quite good given the magnitude of the circumstances, and the 40 percent shooting from downtown has been huge for Miami.
But was any shot bigger than that triple he hit with 1:17 left?
Thus far, no. It sparked the victory, giving Miami the lead for good in a game it couldn't afford to lose. There's a huge difference between heading back to South Beach with the series tied and going home down 2-0.
"Once again, he didn't do anything on the boards—he finished with just three—but his solid offensive performance was just enough of a complement to LeBron's brilliance to put Miami over the hump," wrote Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey after the contest drew to a conclusion.
Now the Heat need him to continue being one of the Association's best complementary players.
Chances are, LeBron will continue being LeBron. But after back-to-back lackluster outings from Wade and a failure from the bench to step up as much as it normally has in the postseason runs of yesteryears, it's imperative that Bosh continues to do, well, exactly what he did on Sunday night.
At this point, it seems rather likely that he'll have an opportunity for more heroics.
Maybe it'll come when the Heat are facing elimination. Maybe it will present itself when Miami has a chance to complete the three-peat. Maybe it'll pop up at some point in between, like during one of the two upcoming games in AmericanAirlines Arena.
Is Chris Bosh clutch?
But if we've learned anything over the past two NBA Finals, one of which is obviously still in progress, it's that these games are always going to be close enough for crunch-time moments to matter in a big way.
That's not the only thing we've learned, though.
Another lesson has been Bosh's ability to shine when the Heat need his contributions most.