I didn’t think it would be Chris Bosh.
He was the Ringo of these “Heetles,” right? The oft-criticized, occasionally forgotten third wheel. The butt of all the “Two and a Half Men” jokes that swirled around Miami this season. The Boshtrich. The guy who went 1-for-18 against the Bulls during what’s turning out to be an utterly meaningless regular season game.
I didn’t think it would be Chris Bosh.
I just didn’t think he would be the Heat player beating the Bulls.
Bosh scored 34 points on 18 field goal attempts.
He went 5-for-6 at the rim, 2-for-2 from 3-9 feet, 1-for-1 from 10-15 feet and 5-for-9 from 16-23 feet.
He hit open shots.
He hit contested shots.
After starting the game 0-for-3, he went 13-for-15.
Bosh also earned more foul shots (10) than LeBron James (9), Dwyane Wade (6) or Derrick Rose (3).
Hknocked down eight of them.
Chicago’s defense was designed to slow down the scoring exploits of LeBron (6-for-13) and D-Wade (6-for-17). That mission was accomplished. But Bosh’s frightening accuracy from everywhere on the floor stretched that D to its breaking point. It allowed James to drive, draw the double team, and kick the ball out. Six of LeBron’s game-high 10 assists were dished to Bosh and Wade…four of them to Bosh.
That’s the value of Miami’s three-star system.
How can you possibly guard all three of them on every possession? The answer, it’s turning out, is that you can’t. Bosh now has two 30-point outbursts in three playoff games against Chicago’s league-leading defense. And in the one game he didn’t go for 30, James and Wade had their way.
It’s hard not to compare LeBron’s floor game and assist totals to that of Derrick Rose. Of course, when Rose tried to run the pick and roll with Joakim Noah, the Heat defense stuck to Rose like it was made of Velcro. That’s because Noah is no threat to score. Last night, Jo finished with a single point on 0-for-4 shooting.
Let’s put it this way: Noah finished the game with more alleged gay slurs than field goals.
Of course, Noah has never been a primary or even secondary scoring threat. The Bulls count on him to rip down rebounds and make an impact on defense. Only he didn’t do either last night. Not even close. Jo totaled a mere 5 rebounds, only one of which came on the offensive end, when he missed a tip shot.
And he was the unfortunate victim of several Bosh jumpers.
Noah finished with five fouls. He committed three of them trying — and failing — to stop Bosh. He couldn’t even slow Bosh down. That wasn’t just a hiccup in the game plan. It blew the game plan to hell.
Said Noah: “We didn’t finish well at the rim. I feel like I could definitely do a better job on the boards, and I need to finish better. I’m really disappointed in myself with the way I played tonight.”
You can tell Noah is frustrated. You can also tell he’s lost all faith in that little 15-footer he had developed before his thumb surgery. Now, when left unguarded with the ball on the outside, Noah looks like he’s holding the world’s hottest potato. He can’t get rid of that thing fast enough.
Juxtapose Noah’s fear of getting the rock outside the paint with Udonis Haslem’s confidence. Haslem went 4-for-5 from the field in the second half, which included jumpers from 15, 16 and 18 feet. Haslem’s ability to hit those shots opened up the floor for James to drive and kick, drive and kick, drive and score.
The Bulls aren’t opening similar lanes for Rose. Carlos Boozer finally made a jail break — 26 points, 10-for-12 at the line, 17 rebounds — but Deng went 2-for-7 when he wasn’t shooting from point blank range. Keith Bogans hit one and missed two. Ronnie Brewer was 2-for-6 and hasn’t earned any respect for his jump shot. Kyle Korver attempted only two field goals in 11 minutes. Omer Asik — who’s less of a threat to score than anyone else on this team — went 0-for-3 before leaving with a leg injury.
In short, the Bulls couldn’t stop Miami’s Big Three — who scored 73 of the Heat’s 96 points — and couldn’t get anything consistent out of their offense outside of Boozer. Haslem, Mike Bibby (2-for-4 on threes) and Mario Chalmers (2-for-3) spaced the floor just enough for their superstar teammates to go where they wanted to go.
Chicago won the rebounding battle (41-32) and outscored Miami in the paint (36-31), but the Heat nearly 51 percent from the field and went an outrageous 10-for-19 from 16-23 feet (52.7 percent). That can’t happen.
Said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: “They’re making shots. We have to get up and challenge their shots better. We have to finish our defense. The rebounding was good. Challenging their shots wasn’t.”
I guess. Although there were a couple times Noah’s hand was so far up in Bosh’s face he could have wiped Bosh’s nose, but Miami’s big man knocked the shots down anyway. What more can Noah do to challenge? Hit Bosh with a brick?
Mind you, I think the long layoff between Games 2 and 3 helped the Heat more than the Bulls. Chicago has superior depth, but that hardly mattered because there was a four-day gap between games. James played 44 minutes. Bosh 43. Wade 39. Why not? They were well-rested, which totally negated the depth factor.
Maybe that will change since Game 4 is on Tuesday night.
Said Boozer: “We feel like we had chances to win both of these games. We are not frustrated to the point where we will not keep fighting, that’s not our character. We are a tough-minded team, tough group of guys, and trust me, we will be right back at it in Game 4.”
I hope Carlos is right. The Bulls haven’t lost three games in a row all season. If it happens on Tuesday, this series will be all but over.
Deceptive Stat of the Night:
According to ESPN Stats and Information: “The Heat’s point guards (Mario Chalmers and Mike Bibby) did an excellent job containing Derrick Rose in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Chalmers and Bibby held the reigning MVP to 4-12 from the field, including 0-3 on isolation plays. This after Rose shot 15-30 when guarded by them in the first two games of the series.”
Sorry, but those guys aren’t containing Rose. They’re helping, to be sure, but Derrick has rarely seen single coverage in this series. Miami is sending help at him from every direction.
No offense to Bibby and Chalmers, but they aren’t the reason why Rose disappeared in the fourth quarter, managing a couple points on only two shot attempts to go with 3 assists and 2 catastrophic turnovers. Miami’s team defense has been intense. Rose hasn’t figured out and answer. He and Thibs will need to if the Bulls are going to survive.