MIAMI -- Before Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Chris Bosh did what most big men aren't "supposed to do." He admitted that he doesn't like to play on the low block anymore. After his 25 points in the 102-90 Game 4 victory over the Indiana Pacers, fans won't hold that against him.
Three years ago when the Miami Heat hadn't won a championship with their newly formed Big Three, Bosh was the player taking the most flack out of anybody on this team. People said that Bosh made up a Big 2.5 instead of a Big Three. Bosh wasn't afforded the distinction of being a star in the NBA, despite being a multiple-time All-Star and one of the more highly sought free agents in 2010. Bosh was the easy target, so to speak, because he didn't exemplify the outdated attributes of his position.
The modern NBA was all about spacing, created in the construct of the new defensive rules that could take away the post-up and required the defense to be stretched out in order to be exposed. Bosh was on his way to fully embracing what the team needed and the sacrifices Erik Spoelstra and his team needed him to make. He had to take fewer shots on offense, play bigger than was reasonable on defense and embrace the jumper from outside.
When he said he doesn't "bang anymore," it was Bosh understanding his strengths and what his maximized potential in the NBA was going to be as the Heat attempt the fabled three-peat. While Bosh has continued to take criticism for not being a traditional big man, his teammates know just how important it is for him to continue to abandon the land of the post and work on spreading out a defense that thrives on protecting the paint.
In Game 4, the Pacers weren't afforded the opportunity to pack the paint against the aggressive driving action of the Heat. Bosh made quick dismissal of that early by sinking 10 of the Heat's first 14 points, and made the Pacers respect his jumper. That wasn't something they had to do earlier in this series, but it was something his Miami teammates wanted to make happen.
"The one cool thing about it was his teammates were real aggressive to try to get him going," Spoelstra said following his team going up 3-1 in the series. "That's nice to see, when your brothers are wanting you to be aggressive and look for opportunities.
"Even though we ran maybe a couple of actions, the rest of it was those four other guys trying to create an action for him to get some air space. But he was engaged and active on both ends of the court, and he can impact it."
Bosh's aggressiveness went from the outside, where he sank 3 of 5 from behind the 3-point line, to the inside where he was drawing fouls. He set up his drives and space to work inside with the jumper, and neither David West, Roy Hibbert nor Ian Mahinmi seemed to know what to take away from him. It was the type of rhythm on offense that made Miami court him in the summer of 2010, and a reminder to his critics that he's capable of putting the Heat in a highly advantageous position to win.
"He'll probably tell you that the rim feels like an ocean when he makes the first couple," Norris Cole said, "especially from 3 like that. He really stretches the floor for us and makes it difficult for the bigs to sag in the paint. That's their strength, they want to funnel everything to the paint and when CB is stepping out there and knocking them down it makes it tough on them."
That's the kicker against these Pacers teams. They are designed to dominate the paint against the Heat and find a way to bully them game after game. But Bosh's versatility counters what the Pacers want to do, especially if you're forced to respect his shot. It's how the Heat went 72.7 percent inside the restricted area against the team that defends the rim better than anybody. You can't protect the rim if you can't keep anybody by it.
Luckily for the Heat, Bosh was never going to be selfish and demand the ball on the low block like "big men are supposed to do." He adapted years ago and has honed a skill that has become a fantastic weapon for him and his teammates. It's one of the big reasons the Heat have two rings with this core and are looking to compete for another in a week or so.