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Bosh's play could be determining factor in Heat's playoff run

by | Special to CBSSports.com
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MIAMI -- Chris Bosh does not have the same fanfare and attention that his two superstar teammates -- LeBron James and Dwyane Wade -- possess.

And while James, a two-time league MVP, and Wade, a former NBA Finals MVP, will have a bright spotlight cast upon them throughout their first playoff experience together as teammates, they both know that Bosh, a six-time All-Star, will need to play at a high level if the Heat are going to be holding the championship trophy come June.

"C.B. is the most important player on our team," said James following the Heat's 97-89 win over the 76ers in Game 1. "When C.B. plays aggressive, when C.B. shoots the ball well, and when he rebounds, we are a very, very, very good team."

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Bosh's first playoff experience in three years was a success as he led the Heat with 25 points on 8 of 17 shooting. He also grabbed 12 rebounds.

"C.B. is very important to us," Wade said. "... him having 25 and 12 is awesome."

James and Wade came into the game with plenty of playoff experience -- 137 games and two Finals appearances between them -- but Bosh had played in just 11 postseason contests.

Despite the lack of playoff experience, Bosh didn't want to make too much of his return to the NBA's grand stage.

"I don't read too much into too many games. It was one of many," he said. "We expect to make a long run so at the end of the day it was another game. We know what's at stake, but you don't want to put too much on it. Me, personally, I don't want to put too much on it because I want to go out there and keep doing what I have been doing."

With the Heat leading by five at halftime, it was Bosh who helped stretch the lead in the third quarter, scoring a team-high 10 in the period as he knocked down two jumpers, a lay-up and converted on a ferocious dunk that gave the Heat a 14-point lead, prompting the Sixers to call timeout.

Down the stretch Bosh made a pair of key free-throws when the Sixers cut the lead to one. He also was a key on the defensive end of the court.

"When we get that contribution from him every night, we give our self a great chance of winning and he showed that," James said. "He played a great overall game and he brought it."

The reason why Bosh is a valued piece of the Heat's championship aspiration is because he's the only legitimate low-post presence on the squad with James and Wade busy on the perimeter.

The Heat have started three different centers this year alongside Bosh, and only Zydrunas Ilgauskas has scored more than 10 points in a game with Erick Dampier and Joel Anthony being limited offensively.

Bosh is also an important key at the high post, either receiving a pass to get an offensive set started or being used in a high screen-and-roll or pick-and-pop situation to loosen up the opponents' defensive efforts on James and Wade.

All three of Miami's perennial All-Stars have had to make adjustments this season playing with one another after being the primary focus on their previous respective teams, but Bosh has arguably had to make the biggest adjustment.

He came to the Heat averaging at least 22 points a game in each of the previous five seasons, including 24 per contest last season. During his first year with the Heat, his shot attempts were nearly three less per game as were his free-throw attempts, resulting in a scoring average of 18.7 per game.

Throughout the season, Bosh has learned how to pick his spots in key situations and maintain his aggressive nature. It has been a learning experience, which has led him to being comfortable in time for the playoffs.

"I've prepared myself for those moments," Bosh said. "I just keep in mind that at any time this team might need me."

The Heat should not have any real troubles against a Sixers team, one that is athletic and scrappy, yet ailing with Andre Iguodala (knee), Elton Brand (hand), and Louis Williams (hamstring) dealing with injuries.

However, the goal for the Heat is not to advance to the second round. Their goal is to win a title, and to do that they'll likely have to go through more formidable frontlines in Chicago, Boston, and possibly Orlando. All three of those teams have not been kind to Bosh this season as he's averaged just 15.0 points and 7.2 rebounds in 11 games against the Heat's top three threats in the East as the team was just 3-8.

"There's going to be some games when he's going to lead the way for us," Wade said. "He's a guy we go to for relief."

If Bosh continues to post 25-and-12-type performances in the playoffs, his fanfare will surely rise.

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