SAN ANTONIO — If only we could climb a ladder and crawl through Chris Bosh‘s ear and into his head. Oh, the things we might find. Forget Khloe Kardashian and the flaky Lamar Odom, reality TV deserves a relatable, emotional human character such as the sensitive, sympathetic and cerebral Bosh.
Who wouldn’t have a complex always being told you’re the third wheel or you more resemble the dopey, leaf-eating sauropod rather than the roaring, carnivorous T-Rex everybody wants you to be, ripping opponents’ heads off and devouring basketballs straight off the backboard?
When Bosh struggles as he has during this roller coaster of a Miami Heat playoff run — one that now has them two wins from back-to-back championships and two losses from a summer of sharp-stick criticism for twice failing to win titles in three tries — it so often seems his troubles ignite between the ears, where he can submerge himself in self-doubt, a sure form of self-sabotage.
Dwyane Wade chuckled when asked if Bosh is the kind of guy that can stress himself out before stepping onto the floor.
“Well, I think he said it best — overthinking,” Wade said. “As a player we start overthinking too much, you know, you get in your own way. We’ve all done it. It’s times myself and and Chris do it a little too much.”
Wade and Bosh are neighbors and Wade has been known to stop by his teammate’s house to talk, to help ease his mind, help keep him as loose as Bosh can be loose.
“Loose?” Wade answered rhetorically when asked if he makes concerted efforts to keep the 6-foot-11 forward-center from overthinking himself into a mental ditch. “Chris is not a loose guy. He’s quiet and to himself. The biggest thing was just trying to let him know how important he is, how important he was going to be to us winning [Game 4]. He responded in a good way, but we got to continue to respond if we want to do what we did last year, and that’s win a championship.”
For a team that won 27 consecutive games during the regular season, the Heat haven’t won two in a row since clinching the Chicago series and opening the East finals with LeBron James‘ buzzer-beater against Indiana. Bosh, averaging 12.7 ppg in the playoffs, four fewer points than his regular-season average, and hitting just 46.2 percent of his shots, down from 53.5 percent in the regular season, has found more consistency in the Finals with his first postseason string of three consecutive double-doubles.
The Heat’s 109-93 Game 4 win to even the series, though, was his best performance since the second round and the most dominating by The Big Three. Bosh rolled to the rim, hit mid-range jumpers, swatted away would-be layups and crashed the boards. All told, he racked up 20 points (on 8-for-14 shooting) for only the second time this postseason and 13 rebounds, his high since May 10 when he posted 20-and-19 in Game 3 against the Bulls. He had two steals and two blocks.
“I want to play well every game. I want to play to the best of my ability, and sometimes that doesn’t happen,” Bosh said. “You’re going to have bad games in a long stretch, especially during the playoffs, and that’s when you really have to trust your game and trust what got you here. I think before I was really just trying to force some situations, thinking of how I can really get going, and it doesn’t work like that. I just have to really trust my instincts, trust my teammates and just continue to play and let things happen.”
Initially, it didn’t look as if it was going to happen for him in Game 4. Bosh started 1-for-4, missing his jumper and seeming tentative, like one of those giant, long-necked leaf-eaters stumped by which tree from which to begin his feast.
Bosh started to get rolling in the second quarter, then went 5-for-6 from the floor in the second half as Miami widened its lead. For chunks of Game 4, Bosh served as Miami’s lone big man on the floor. Coach Erik Spoelstra started shooter Mike Miller over rugged forward Udonis Haslem and Chris “Birdman” Andersen never got off the bench.
The small lineup boosts Bosh’s responsibilities at both ends of the floor, attacking offensively and defensively jousting with Tim Duncan as well as being the last line of defense and a primary rebounder.
“There’s no question about it,” Spoelstra said. “When we play with those lineups, he’s the last man there. I mean, we do have some hybrid wings, you saw Dwyane and LeBron back there as well. But we need Chris to be big and to do so many different things and wear a lot of different hats. We play him offensively everywhere on the floor. But defensively battling against a Hall of Famer and then helping us clean up the glass really gave us a boost.”
Maybe Game 4 is the boost Bosh needed to clear his crowded mind and bring out the best in his game for as many as three games left in this title-or-bust season.
“It’s just the disposition, first of all, with myself and then everybody else. Those things are going to follow,” Bosh said. “I don’t really pay too much attention to the numbers. It’s just how I’m doing, the energy and effort that I’m giving out there, and everything else falls into place.”