SAN ANTONIO – LeBron James and Dwyane Wade lingered at the edge of the court for a few extra moments after Game 4 of the NBA Finals, waiting to tend to one last piece of business.
They wanted to shake Chris Bosh’s hand.
By now, it’s not a surprise when the biggest man in Miami’s trio of stars gets overshadowed, which surely seemed to be the case once again in the game that essentially saved any hope the Heat have at winning their second straight NBA title. James scored 33 points in his best game of the finals, and Wade played his best game in about three months with 32 points, but Bosh’s 20-point, 13-rebound effort in Miami’s 109-93 win over San Antonio was not lost on the Heat.
“He got into the battle. He got into the fight,” Wade said. “He played big for us. Thirteen rebounds, that’s what we need from him and obviously 20 points. He played the way that we love to see Chris Bosh play.”
Put another way, if Bosh keeps playing like this, there could be another parade down Biscayne Boulevard in a few days.
Maligned throughout much of the playoffs for relying almost too much on the long jumper and 3-point shot, Bosh quietly changed his approach.
In the next three games of the finals, he’s taken one 3-pointer, and that was a meaningless misfire with the Heat down by 26 points midway through the fourth quarter of San Antonio’s romp in Game 3.
He’s had three straight double-doubles.
He’s stayed in more comfortable offensive locales inside the arc, and has totaled 44 points and 33 rebounds in the most recent three games of the series – three more points and three more rebounds than the Spurs’ Tim Duncan has collected in that span.
Yes, the NBA found him guilty of flopping in Game 4, fining him $5,000 for his arms-flailing fall after a nudge by Duncan.
Overall, though, Bosh was anything but a flop in a game that kept Miami from going into what would have been a dreaded 3-1 hole.
“I don’t know really what the difference has been with Chris,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said on Friday, an off day for both teams before the series resumes with Game 5 in San Antonio on Sunday. “All we know is we need it. And last night he played all his minutes at the center, where we needed it even more. It will be a collective effort. But there won’t be anybody else we can turn to.”
The Heat have an offensive style all their own, the so-called positionless approach. The starting lineup in Game 4 was James, Wade, Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller along with Bosh, meaning it was four perimeter players with one big man, against a Spurs lineup that has, in Duncan, one of the best power forwards of all time.
Bosh played Duncan evenly. Both scored 20.
The other star matchups, those were Miami routs. James and Wade combined for 65 points. San Antonio’s Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combined for 20.
“When those guys play like that,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Miami’s three stars, “you better be playing a more perfect game.”
Spoelstra’s decision to start Miller in Game 4 sparked a flurry of trickledown effects. The Spurs went to their bench 47 seconds into the game. Miller’s mere presence helped open up some space for James and Wade, and their big scoring nights were no coincidence. It also gave Bosh extra room to maneuver inside, where he seemed active as he’d been at any point in the series, maybe the entire playoffs.
“I was able to get in the paint a lot more,” Bosh said. “I think it really opened up my game a little bit. The jumper really wasn’t there in the first half, but it came eventually. I was just able to get in a really good flow.”
The second half, he was darn close to perfect. He made five of his six shots, had nine rebounds, two blocks to keep the game tied in a two-possession span midway through the third quarter, even got on the floor for a loose ball as teammates around him couldn’t wait to pull him up and slap his backside.
And when the night was over, Bosh really wasn’t all that fascinated with his stat line. All that mattered was the win.
“It’s just the disposition, first of all, with myself, and then everybody else,” Bosh said. “Those things are going to follow. 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. I always believe that if I bring the necessary energy, things will go well.”
That’s why the Heat have called him their most important player for the last three years.
That’s also why, after a game where they grabbed the headlines, James and Wade wouldn’t walk into the Texas night without their big man.
“Ever since we’ve gotten together, since the first game, we’ve had to respond to adversity,” Bosh said. “That’s something that we pride ourselves on. And we really concentrate. When things get rough and they’re not going like you want them to go, that’s when we pull together even more.”