MIAMI -- Chris Bosh walked into the locker room Wednesday night after the Heat beat the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs, and he was hoping for a hug. He would have settled for a high five or even a pat on the back. Just some form of jubilation.
Instead, he got nothing.
"Somebody told me when you go to the second round, you hug and celebrate," Bosh said. "It wasn't like that for us."
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the team was "able to celebrate for about six minutes" because now the Boston Celtics are waiting in the Eastern Conference semifinals, which start Sunday. For Bosh, reaching the second round is a career milestone. And now he has to prove he can keep this playoff run going, because anything short of an NBA Finals appearance would be considered a failure after joining forces with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
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Even though they are considered the Big Three, Bosh has little playoff experience compared to Wade, a champion in 2006 with the Heat, and James, who reached the finals in 2007 with Cleveland. Bosh had two previous playoff appearances with the Raptors in 2007 and 2008, with both ending in first-round exits to New Jersey and Orlando, respectively.
He wasn't about to let that happen again with the matchup against Philadelphia, not with expectations so high. And he's not ready to end this season any time soon.
"We're still on our journey," said Bosh, who averaged 19.8 points and nine rebounds against the 76ers. "But we have a long way to go."
This playoff journey is much different for Bosh. Now, with James and Wade on his side, he doesn't have to carry the team like he did in Toronto. Bosh only has to play his role, and for a while during the regular season, he didn't appear to know what that was.
The slender 6-foot-11, 235-pound power forward was playing small, relying on his jump shot instead of going into the post. After the Heat lost five games in a row in early March, Bosh complained about not being in his "comfort zone" near the basket.
"I need to get the ball where big guys get it," Bosh said then. "I'm effective in the low-post area. That's where I need to start getting the ball."
The results speak for themselves as Bosh had his best month with the Heat in March -- after his comments -- averaging 19.9 points and 8.8 rebounds. The Heat closed the season 19-7, and Bosh was back to playing like a big man and living up to the expectations of being a max-contract player. He even was OK with seeing time at center, something he previously despised.
"C.B. is the most important player on our team," James said. "When C.B. shoots the ball well and when he rebounds, we are a very good team."
Added Wade: "There are going to be some games when he leads the way for us. He is a guy we go to for relief."
Despite his solid play to close the season and his performance against the 76ers, it doesn't appear Bosh has won over fans in Miami yet. Wade is the homegrown star, and James was the savior who would help carry the franchise back to prominence. Bosh definitely was welcomed upon arrival, but at times it seems he wasn't fully accepted.
James and Wade get the MVP chants from the American Airlines Arena crowd. What does Bosh get? A lot of criticism when the Heat lose, even more than James or Wade. Maybe it's because he appears to shrink in big moments or maybe there's a perception he wasn't worth the money.
He now gets the opportunity to prove himself in the playoffs, and he has the chance to shine against Boston. But facing Kevin Garnett, a proven playoff competitor, is a daunting task. Bosh has struggled against the Celtics this season. In four meetings, he's averaging only 15 points and 8.3 rebounds.
"We knew it was going to happen," Bosh said of facing Boston in the playoffs. "I think they knew it. Everybody knew it. It was just a matter of time. It's going to be a battle. It's going to be a lot of fun."
Bosh will play a significant role in deciding the outcome. And if things go his way, a lot of hugs will follow.