Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh thrives in temporary No. 2 role

01/28/2014 12:01 AM

03/14/2014 2:43 PM

This is the Chris Bosh the Heat signed for max money.

This is the Bosh who earned a ticket to the 2008 Olympics.

This is the Bosh whom Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has called, for years, the Heat’s most important player.

This is the same Bosh as always, of course, only different.

There are no long-term benefits for the Heat with this diminished version of Dwyane Wade, but these past two weeks have allowed Bosh an offensive freedom rarely known since he signed on with Miami. Bosh is averaging over 16 shots in his past seven games — that’s comparable to his final season in Toronto — and he’s making those attempts count.

“With Dwyane struggling with his injuries and everything, that has allowed me to kind of get into a groove,” Bosh said.

“My mentality coming in is to be aggressive. Sometimes, some shots that I shoot, if [Wade is] into a good rhythm and playing, then I probably won’t take those, but they still come within the flow of the offense.”

The Heat’s versatile big man is thriving in his new, albeit temporary role as the second option for the defending back-to-back champions, and Bosh’s emergence has helped the Heat through an otherwise difficult stretch of the season. Wade has missed four of his last five games — and came off the bench against San Antonio — but the Heat has won three in a row thanks, in large part, to Bosh’s sweet jump shot and his ability to play multiple roles in a pinch.

In addition to his increased offensive responsibilities, Bosh has been rotating between center and power forward for the Heat in recent games while also compensating for the diminished skills and athleticism of Greg Oden, who is working his way back into shape during the middle of a season.

“It has taken me about three years to figure out,” Bosh said. “But the comfort level is there.

Spoelstra has long extolled the undervalued greatness of Bosh, who was forced to change his game the most in 2010 in order to make all the pieces fit, but even the Heat’s coach has acknowledged recently that what Bosh is doing now, in terms of providing offensive and defensive cohesion in so many different ways, wasn’t always in the repertoire.

“I think what you’re seeing is that his skill set is different,” Spoelstra said. “It has evolved now over the last three and half years.

“It’s a great luxury to have a star player with that mentality.”

It’s a lot to juggle, but, given the chance, Bosh has made the offense look easy. He has made 17 of his last 18 shots and over his last three games is shooting 73.8 percent (31 of 42).

There is another player with a reputation like that in the NBA. His name is Kevin Durant. Since Wade began experiencing severe chronic pain in his right knee, Bosh is averaging 24 points per game while shooting at a clip comparable to Oklahoma City’s superstar forward.

Coincidentally, Durant and Oklahoma City visit Miami for a game on Wednesday.

The clear leader for the MVP at this point in the season, Durant is shooting 60.9 percent from the field, 52.8 percent from three-point range and 88.1 percent from the free-throw line in his last seven games. During that time Bosh has a better field-goal percentage, 0.611, and is shooting 46.2 percent from three-point range and 85.7 percent from the free-throw line.

In the build up to the Heat’s home game against the Thunder, most will focus on comparisons between Durant and LeBron James. That the Heat actually has two players in that same conversation — and one isn’t Wade — offers some perspective on the current collection of talent stockpiled on Biscayne Boulevard.

Not that anyone in Miami ever needs a reality check when it comes to the Heat.

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