Chris Bosh has not gotten much credit for the steady contributions he has made to the Miami Heat throughout the postseason. He might have been the team's best player in the Philadelphia series, where he had three 20-point, 10-rebound games in the 5.
In the Celtics series, he went toe-to-toe with one of the best power forwards in league history in Kevin Garnett and actually outplayed him for the majority of the series with the exception of Game 3.
It was that game that would find the "Bosh is soft" rhetoric reach a fevered pitch when he admitted after the game that his head was not properly focused on the game. This was pure gold for the media and "Heat-haters" alike, as it offered evidence to back up their belief that Bosh was an overrated third wheel rather than one of the games best power forwards.
Perhaps with that soundbite in mind, Bosh entered the series against the Bulls appearing to be the weakest link in Miami's quest to reach the Finals. The Bulls had a vaunted frontline that included great post-defenders in Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson and solid offensive post-players in Carlos Boozer.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau elected to play Noah on Bosh to discourage Bosh from driving to the basket and to prevent Boozer from being embarrassed on defense.
It seemed to be the perfect plan. "Bosh won't be able to handle the Bulls frontline," the Bulls fans claimed. "He will be intimidated and buckle like a belt."
However, that has not happened, and through three games, Bosh is averaging 24.7 ppg and seven rpg. In fact, Bosh is averaging more points and a better field-goal percentage in the series than the league MVP Derrick Rose who is only averaging 23.6 ppg so far.
So why has Bosh been so solid against the Bulls? Well, the truth of the matter is, the Bulls really have no answer for Bosh. That quote might have gotten me laughed right off of this site a week ago, but when you look at the matchup, this appears to be the case.
Chris Bosh is generally a jump-shooting power forward, which is what the Bulls want him to do and play Noah on him to seduce him into that type of offensive game. But if Bosh is hitting those jumpers, as he has done in this series, he makes life very difficult on the Bulls interior defense since he forces Noah away from the basket and opens up driving lanes for Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.
If you're a Bulls fan, the last thing you want to see is Noah on the perimeter contesting Bosh's jump shots. But that is the consequence of playing Noah on Bosh.
Another problem with the Noah-Bosh matchup is that Noah is bigger, but Bosh is quicker, so Bosh can get to his sweet spots on the floor or drive to the basket eluding Noah's long arms in attempts at blocked shots. If Noah could post-up and had a developed "back to the basket" offensive game, the matchup might put more defensive pressure on Bosh or Joel Anthony. But since Noah does most of his damage offensively on the glass, boxing him out on rebounds appears to be the best means of defending his offensive game.
In an ideal world, The Bulls would choose to play Carlos Boozer on Bosh. But with Boozer's notorious defensive problems, (as illustrated in Game 3 when Bosh spun off of Boozer for the emphatic two-handed dunk) coach Thibodeau knows that Bosh would begin to put up Dwight Howard numbers if he plays Boozer on Bosh regularly.
The last option would be to play Taj Gibson more minutes and put him full-time on Bosh. But Gibson, while a solid defender, has a height disadvantage against Bosh. Additionally, Gibson's offensive game is not much more developed than Noah's.
Both players need to be around the basket to be effective. Neither player is much of a threat 10 feet or more out. This allows Bosh to take as many jumpers as he chooses and not have to worry about defense on a player who will not be much of a scorer.
Chris Bosh has been called many things prior to this series ("soft," "Bosh Spice," "Third Wheel"), but for now, he is quieting his critics with a spirited performance when the games matter the most. The Bulls must find a defensive solution to him or they could be looking at the offseason by this weekend.