MIAMI — The idea that Chris Bosh would be a difference maker in the Eastern Conference finals isn’t too far-fetched. But the idea that Bosh’s 3-point shooting would be critical was not a part of anybody’s Game 7 preview.
Since the start of the Eastern Conference finals, Bosh’s health has been a primary storyline, so much that Heat coach Erik Spoelstra quickly learned to just start his media availability sessions with a Bosh update before anybody asked a question.
In Game 7, Bosh proved why those updates were so important. In his third game back from a strained abdominal injury that kept him out three weeks, Bosh played a huge role in getting the Miami Heat back to The Finals, scoring 19 points in the Heat’s 101-88 victory over the Boston Celtics.
Bosh was the only Heat player in the practice gym on Friday. Since getting the go-ahead to resume on-court work, he’s been making up for lost time by getting as many workouts in as possible. And after shooting 6-for-16 in his first two games back, he clearly found his rhythm on Saturday, shooting 8-for-10 from the field and 6-for-8 from outside the paint, with his two biggest shots coming from beyond the arc.
After the Celtics took a two-point lead on the first possession of the fourth quarter, Mario Chalmers ran a pick-and-roll with LeBron James, drew the attention of Kevin Garnett, and found Bosh in the corner. Bosh drained a three to put the Heat up one.
Four minutes later, with the Heat up one again, James drove around Brandon Bass, got Garnett to commit again, and found Bosh in the same spot. Another three, and the Celtics never got another chance to tie the game or take the lead.
“We knew in big-time situations, that they were going to be open,” Bosh said of the 3-pointers. “LeBron and Dwyane [Wade] have it going so well, they need somebody to space the floor.”
Garnett had been roaming on defense all series. And with Bosh healthy and in rhythm, the Heat finally had someone to make him pay.
“Game ball automatically goes to him,” James said. “Without his production tonight, we don’t win.”
You can certainly argue that Bosh played an equally important role on the other end of the floor. The Celtics scored just 90 points per 100 possessions in Bosh’s 74 minutes on the court in the series. In his 272 minutes on the bench, they scored 103. And the Heat were a plus-26 in 31 minutes with Bosh and Udonis Haslem on the floor together.
The Heat are now 7-2 in the postseason with Bosh in uniform. And they go into The Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder with one more offensive weapon and with the ability to play either big or small. The only question is whether or not Bosh will start or continue to come off the bench.
“We played tough [without Bosh],” Spoelstra said, “but we knew that for two years, he had been our most important player, because he makes it all work.”