National Columnist

Chris Bosh lets Heat down again, appears lost as Game 7 looms

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Chris Bosh seems lost now. Physically lost, mentally lost, the whole thing. His ankle is sprained and his psyche is bruised and there's not much time to fix either one, because Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals is Monday night in Miami.

"I have 48 hours," Bosh said.

He has 48 hours, and everyone is watching. This is new territory for Bosh, because let's be honest: Until now, we haven't paid him much attention. He was a great player for the Toronto Raptors from 2003-10, but that was Toronto and we weren't watching. He has been a very good player for the Heat these last three years, but that was alongside LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. We were watching, but we weren't watching Bosh.

Now? We're watching. He has become a central character in this show, like a sprinter who falls on his face coming out of the blocks. He's not beating anyone, but how can you take your eyes off him? He's fascinating because he's so ... lost.

That's Bosh entering Game 7 thanks to his stink-bomb of a performance Saturday night in Game 6, which the Pacers won 91-77 to knot the series at three games each. Bosh has been bad for three games in a row, bad in a way that a player who considers himself a future Hall of Famer cannot be, not when those three games are in the conference finals and another high-level teammate, Dwyane Wade, is also offering stink-bombs.

LeBron James needs help, and neither Bosh nor Wade is giving it. But say this for Bosh: He didn't make like Wade and blame his bad game on pretty much everyone else. Wade did. Wade suggested his and Bosh's struggles are a function of their teammates.

"We have to do a good job of getting opportunities for me and Chris to succeed," Wade said. "It's something we're going to have to look at as a team."

Wade then seemed to single out LeBron James, and I'm being dead serious. Check out this quote from Wade. Tell me what you think he meant when he said the following:

"We've got to figure it out in this locker room," Wade said. "And not leave it to an individual to self-will it."

An individual to self-will it? Apologize right now, LeBron James, for those 29 points, seven rebounds and six assists you had in Game 6. And for those two steals. And one block. How dare you.

Wade went there, but not Bosh. Well, not yet. More on that in a minute. For now, know that this basically was the first thing Bosh said when he walked out of the shower and positioned himself in front of the 25 or 30 reporters waiting at his locker:

"I just had a bad game," Bosh said. "I'm not going to make excuses. I didn't [help] my teammates, and that will not happen again."

It has happened three times already. In the last three games Bosh has put up 19 points and 12 rebounds -- total. Once upon a time, Bosh was hanging 19 and 12 on opponents practically on a nightly basis. Hell, in 2010 he averaged 24 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. That was his final year under contract in Toronto, and it convinced James and Wade to collude with him to form the Big Three in Miami.

But this isn't what anyone had in mind. Seven points in Game 4, seven points in Game 5, and then an impossibly worse display in Game 6: five points, and all five points were a joke. Bosh made a 3-pointer in the first quarter that hit the front of the rim and had everyone hustling to the other end of the court. But then the ball hit the glass, and the rim again, and eventually the ball got tired of running into things and fell through the basket. The crowd groaned, because it was a bogus shot.

"Not supposed to go in," is how Bosh described that field goal -- his only field goal of the game. He added two garbage-time free throws with 1:06 left, and the next chance Heat coach Erik Spoelstra got, he took Bosh out of the game. Why? Probably because two free throws constitute a hot streak for Chris Bosh. Something to build on for next game.

"I have to get back in the gym and work on my game," Bosh said. "That's about the only thing that will help me now. My rhythm just seems off, and it's been like that the whole series. And now I have to go find it."

His journey would be easier if he could stop feeling sorry for himself. Remember how I said earlier that Bosh didn't go where Wade went and suggest his teammates -- his "opportunities to succeed" --- were complicit in his struggles? That's true. Bosh didn't go there. But he went ...somewhere.

"Everything is hard now for me," Bosh said. "This whole year has been a struggle for me, but if you want to win a championship, you have to go places you haven't been before."

Bosh was speaking cryptically, but longtime Heat watchers say he was referring to playing center on defense, and to being used as a decoy who spaces the floor on offense. Bosh fancies himself a power forward who should be used on the pick-and-roll, but it's not happening this season. And so he says things like "everything is hard now for me" and "this whole year has been a struggle for me."

But then he signed off with one last burst of positivity -- cloaked, as it was, in self-pity:

"I just have to go out and get the job done," Bosh said. "Stop letting the team down."


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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