After saying that his emotions got the best of him in Game 3, Chris Bosh provided fodder for sports talk hosts around the country. Bosh was derided as a soft player who was perhaps not a worthy third cog next to Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.
That was then. This is now.
The Heat’s power forward made one of the most critical plays in the game, tipping in a missed James jumper to give Miami a 95-90 lead with 24 seconds left. Bosh shook off a shaky start to finish with 20 points on 8-of-17 shooting and 12 rebounds, outdueling Kevin Garnett. After Delonte West missed a 3-pointer, Wade and Bosh made free throws to ice the 98-90 decision that gives the Heat a controlling 3-1 lead in this best-of-seven series.
This game was the one everyone wanted. After three rather lopsided games, people waited to see these teams battle for the entire 48 minutes (or 53, in this case). In the overtime session, Miami executed several nice plays while the Celtics only managed to make one field goal.
James made a fall-away jumper over Paul Pierce to score the first bucket of the overtime period. On Miami’s next possession, the Heat went to their bread-and-butter play: the Wade/James pick-and-roll. After James set the screen for Wade at the top of the key, James received the ball in the paint. With Kevin Garnett helping to defend James, the two-time MVP passed the ball to Bosh for a nice lay-in. Wade also made a deep two in the overtime period to put Miami up six with two minutes left, putting pressure on the Celtics.
Although Bosh and Wade had their moments, this night belonged to James. James’ Cleveland Cavaliers lost to Boston in last year’s playoffs, and the 6-foot-8 forward from Akron, Ohio didn’t play well in Game 3 of this series. But right from the beginning of the games, the No. 1 pick in the 2003 NBA Draft aggressively attacked the basket. He finished with 35 points on 12-of-28 shooting from the field and 9-of-9 shooting from the foul line, 14 rebounds and three steals.
When Boston took an 84-81 lead with 2:28 left to play, James hit a 3 right in front of the Celtics bench to tie the game. He played more than 50 minutes in the game, a testament to his endurance and resiliency.
Wade finished with 28 points on 8-of-18 shooting from the field and 12-of-14 shooting from the foul line and nine rebounds. He looked tired in the last minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime, but give Wade credit; that step-back shot was huge. Wade also came over and defended the 6-foot-11 Garnett on a pick-and-roll with a minute left to go, forcing him into a tough turnaround shot.
This game featured some interesting new developments. Joel Anthony started in place of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who only played for a brief stint in the first half. Anthony provided his usual defensive intensity, but Erik Spoelstra decided to go small and use a lineup of Mario Chalmers, Wade, James Jones, James and Bosh to close the game.
Udonis Haslem also played for the first time since he suffered a ruptured ligament in late November. The three-minute debut was not good for the co-captain, though. Haslem badly missed a wide-open jumper and received a technical foul after he picked up a loose-ball foul. Haslem didn’t look good out there, but I’d continue to play him sparingly. What exactly do the Heat lose when Zydrunas Ilgauskas is in there?
The Heat will have a chance to wrap up the series at home Wednesday night at 7.