At center, Chris Bosh unlocks Heat versatility

Jun 21, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat power forward Chris Bosh (1) reacts against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second quarter of game five in the 2012 NBA Finals at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Every player on the Miami Heat coalesced to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games to clinch the franchise's second championship. I wrote this commentary before Game 5, but one cannot reiterate it enough: LeBron James scored around 30 points, set up open teammates, rebounded like a 7-footer and defended the opposing team's best player in the Finals. He absolutely deserved the Finals MVP. Playing with a balky left knee, Dwyane Wade attacked the basket relentlessly and had moments of great defense. Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller all stand out as the unsung heroes of the Finals, giving Miami 3-point shooting throughout the series.

As much credit as everyone on the Heat deserves - from James to Erik Spoelstra to Udonis Haslem and others - Chris Bosh significantly contributed to this title. Before the start of this lockout-shortened season, Bosh said that he would accept the center role for the Heat. His willingness to play the five - in tandem with James' embrace of playing in the post as a power forward - unlocked so much versatility for this team. Miami's starting lineup surrounded the Big Three with two 3-point shooters, Chalmers and Battier. Bosh was a matchup nightmare for Kendrick Perkins, easily driving by him to the basket. In his 9-for-14 shooting performance in Game 5 of the Finals, Bosh made numerous shots in the paint. If Spoelstra went with Joel Anthony or Ronny Turiaf at the five, the Heat wouldn't have exposed Perkins in the Finals.

Although Bosh's placement as a center helped Miami offensively, the wiry 6-foot-11 man also anchored Miami's defense. Serge Ibaka's comments on James' defense contained some truth in the sense that the Heat played good help defense on Kevin Durant. Durant did get a step on James quite a bit in the Finals - that doesn't mean that, as Ibaka said, that James is not a good defender - but Bosh came over to challenge the shots. Bosh blocked a Durant floater in the fourth quarter of Game 3 of the NBA Finals, leading to a 24-second violation. That block came moments after James made two free throws to put the Heat up 78-77, a lead the Heat never relinquished.

That's just one defensive play Bosh made, but he undoubtedly was a big part of the reason why the Heat held the Thunder below 100 points in three straight games, something Oklahoma City hadn't done all season long. Bosh recorded two blocks in Games 2, 3 and 5 of the Finals. Bosh has long arms, and seeing him use those tools to block and alter shots was great.

The Thunder players found themselves down 2-1 going into Game 4 of the NBA Finals. No team in Finals history has come back from a 3-1 deficit, so Oklahoma City was definitely in a must-win situation. But Bosh said before the game, "We can't match their desperation, they're going to have to match ours. We know what's at stake." He proceeded to dive for loose balls and fight for offensive rebounds, preventing Oklahoma City from tying the series at two games apiece.

When Bosh came into training camp, he said he would shed the "soft" label. With his help defense, Bosh did just that and enabled Miami to play with more offensive firepower. Now, we can stop questioning Bosh's masculinity and instead simply enjoy his remarkable quirkiness.

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