MIAMI – Chris Bosh admits the pressure was on.
His Miami Heat teammates and coaches could only cover up for the disappointingly low rebounding numbers and his preference to hang out on the perimeter for jumpers for only so long.
So after the Heat returned to Miami after ending a four-game road trip with a loss to Indiana Pacers, there was a day off followed by two practices sessions that resembled something close to training camp. Among the team’s primary focuses was to get Bosh back to a big man’s game.
“They’re putting that pressure on me,” Bosh said. “So I just have to figure it out, with their help a little bit, and get into a good rhythm, and just keep building.”
Bosh was able to establish a solid foundation from which to build after his most complete game of the season in Saturday’s 114-107 victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers. On a night that featured several notable performances from the Heat, Bosh’s 22 points and season-high 12 rebounds highlighted the start of a five-game home stand for a team that spent the past few days regrouping from an uneven trip.
For Bosh, this was about getting back to the basics of being an impact player in the post. The spotlight was clearly on Bosh after the Heat were pummeled inside during their previous two losses to Chicago and Indiana. In the setback against the Pacers, center Roy Hibbert dominated the second half of the game and doubled Bosh’s overall production in points and rebounds.
While the Cavaliers certainly aren’t the Pacers, Cleveland does present the sort of frontcourt size with Andrew Bynum, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson that has been problematic for the Heat. So to see Bosh respond from the outset with aggressiveness on offense and a sturdy presence defensively was enough to leave coach Erik Spoelstra looking for this to be the start of something sustainable.
After all, the Pacers are looming again with a visit to Miami on Wednesday. But before then, there will be an opportunity for Bosh to build from Saturday’s effort in Monday’s game against the Utah Jazz. The key for Bosh is to continue to embrace the fundamental elements of his game.
Bosh insists his overall approach didn’t change on the way to shooting 10-of-17 from the field and providing the perfect interior complement to LeBron James’ near triple-double and Dwyane Wade’s relentless attacking style. What Bosh did adjust, however, was the way he mixed up his game. After taking midrange jumpers early in the game, Bosh really got going in the second quarter when he sliced through the lane for a ferocious, two-handed dunk in traffic.
“Any time you get easy buckets like that, it definitely gets you more involved,” Bosh said. “Just seeing the ball go through, especially emphatically like that, it’s a good thing. I just try to make sure I build off that when I do it. [Spoelstra], he’s been trying to get me in more of those situations. They’ve been on me to roll, get more rolls to the basket, figure out when to roll and when not to roll.”
Sorting through that predicament hasn’t been an easy process for Bosh, whose shooting touch and versatility has allowed him to create matchup problems for bigger, traditional centers to create favorable options for the Heat on the way to winning consecutive titles. But on those nights when Bosh’s rebounding dips to critically low numbers because he’s hovering along the perimeter, he’s the easiest and biggest target for finger-pointing.
Miami annually been one of the worst rebounding teams in the league since Bosh, James and Wade became teammates in the summer of the 2010. But Saturday was the latest example how the Heat overcome those limited shortcomings with the collective contributions of their Big Three.
The Heat got past the Cavaliers not only because Bosh was at his focused best, but also because James contributed 25 points, nine assists and nine rebounds to go with 24 points, six assists and three rebounds from Wade. And Miami still wasn’t safe, because it squandered all of a 19-point lead in the second half and trailed by as many as five points late in the fourth quarter before rallying at the end.
“That’s something we have to look back on film and kind of really dissect and see where we’re falling short a little bit,” Bosh said of the Heat’s stretches of sporadic play. “We don’t want to pick up any bad habits. We have to be honest with ourselves, look at it and move on from there.”
That process of accountability led Bosh to realize he needed to get back to his own fundamentals.
“I just wanted to do a good job of doing my job,” said Bosh, who is averaging 14 points and 6.1 rebounds this season. “[That’s] making sure I’m boxing out, being where I’m supposed to be on defense. I just want to be more consistent with my rebounding, just making sure I’m in the right spot at the right time.”
That’s the blueprint for Bosh.
And this was an occasion when he completed all of his tasks to expectations.
“I really liked his pie chart, and how many different ways he impacted the game, really on both ends,” Spoelstra said. “It started off as an offensive rebound, the ball was tipped and he was going after it. On a free throw, he was aggressive, putting his head under the rim having opportunities to get some easy ones. And then, because of his matchups, he was finding open shots, open space right in his comfort area. He has a lot on his plate to help us with his versatility, but he pretty much did all of that tonight.”
James summed it up more efficiently.
“When [Bosh] gets a double-double, we are pretty much unbeatable,” James said of Bosh’s second double-double of the season. “He had his legs. He looked great.”
The goal now is to keep Bosh involved and engaged, which is something that starts within.
“I’ve been talking about it,” Bosh said. “Against bigger teams, it’s so easy to float around on the outside and get the outside shot. That’s what I can do. But keeping them honest, mixing it up and keeping them guessing, that’s something I’m working on right now. With this homestand, I’m just trying to make sure I come out with good energy every game and put in the necessary time in the weight room, on the court and in the film room -- just doing what I need to do to stay sharp.”