Dwyane Wade’s math wasn’t far off.
Following the Heat’s victory against the Lakers on Christmas, Wade noted in the postgame locker room that Chris Bosh “had 13 shots at halftime, and he’s averaging 12” per game. Miami’s shooting guard was being generous.
Before that victory against the Lakers — the first of the Heat’s four-game road trip — Bosh was actually averaging 10.5 attempts from the field while he plodded through his annual early season course of adapting to an offense featuring two of the best shot-makers in the league. This has always been the difficult task assigned to Bosh with the Heat, and his ability to riff and freestyle off of LeBron James and Wade and still remain a significant offensive force has long been undervalued.
“He has sacrificed a lot to be on this team, and I think sometimes he’s evaluated and judged from the outside just on his scoring average, and that does not tell, at all, the true story of Chris Bosh,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He is unique. I think he’s the most dynamic, versatile big in the league.”
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And when the need arises, Bosh can carry a team just like Wade and James. He reminded the league of that fact during the Heat’s difficult road trip out West, which only featured that one game — the Christmas Day special — with the Heat at full strength.
Wade rested against Sacramento and James sat out against Portland with a strained right groin. Meanwhile, Bosh played the entire road trip with eight stitches in his mouth, earned his first Eastern Conference Player of the Week Award since joining the Heat and also extended his streak of shooting at least .500 to 10 games.
“It’s hard to get Player of the Week with those guys, I’ll tell you that much,” Bosh said. “It’s a little bit more special for me because they come few and far between. I’m just proud of the effort and proud of my teammates for believing in me and giving me the chance to just go out there and do what I do.”
Bosh busted his lip in the Heat’s overtime victory against the Hawks, but an elbow to the mouth did little to throw off his rhythm or stymie gathering momentum. He scored 23 points against the Lakers and, after dominated his counterpart LaMarcus Aldridge in the Heat’s victory against the Trail Blazers. Bosh had 37 points and made the game-wining three-pointer.
But the thing that truly separated Bosh from Aldridge in that game was defense. Bosh played it and Aldridge did not. The development of his defensive skills since joining the Heat has turned Bosh into a 6-11 big man with a gifted shot to one of the NBA’s elite players.
“I’m a much better player than I was in Toronto,” Bosh said. “I was able to score a lot of points, but I wasn’t a two-way player. I’m a two-way player now,” Bosh said. “I feel that I’m a lot better offensively. I’m a totally different player and ‘CB4’ was gone a long time ago, and you can’t get him back.”
James credited Bosh’s surge in offense to his commitment to rebounding. He had 11 rebounds against the Lakers and averaged 8.3 in the Heat’s road trip.
“That gets him going,” James said. “That activates him.”
After beginning the season averaging 18.5 points through the first six games, Bosh’s numbers dipped drastically through November and the beginning of December. By the 19th game of the season, a victory at the Timberwolves’ Pepsi Center, Bosh’s points-per-game average dipped below 14. He scored eight points against Minnesota with Kevin Love missing the game.
Since then, Bosh has scored in double figures in every game, and he has only shot below .500 once. On the season, Bosh is now averaging 16.0 points per game and shooting 53.3 percent from the field. During the Heat’s six-game winning streak, Bosh shot 57.1 percent from the field while attempting an average of 14 shots per game. And the majority of his shots came from close range.
He was 33 of 45 from (73.3 percent) on shots within five feet of the basket during the winning streak while also shooting 12 of 24 (50 percent) from 15 to 19 feet. Against the Trail Blazers, Bosh expanded his game to include his three-point shot. He was 3 of 3 from distance. On the road trip, Bosh shot 56.3 percent.
“There’s no question that [Bosh’s] aggressiveness can be a catalyst to our energy,” Spoelstra said. “He has really started being more aggressive in getting to the rim, making himself available for those catches deep for layups, dunks, putbacks — all that stuff that he has been doing the last few games. It just sparks our guys. Everyone knows what to do from there.”