Chris Bosh has been making it easy lately to forget where he was not long ago — fearing for his life, worried about his basketball future and recovering from blood clots in his lung.
On Thursday night, about 48 hours after he scored a season-high 30 points in a win over the Lakers, Bosh put the Miami Heat on his back again, pushing them past the Utah Jazz, 92-91, in front of the 252nd consecutive sellout crowd at AmericanAirlines Arena.
With Dwyane Wade missing his first game of the season to be with his injured 8-year-old son, Zion, at a local hospital, Bosh played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter, scored a team-leading 25 points and finished with eight rebounds, four assists and four blocked shots in 37 minutes.
Bosh’s final block of the game against a driving Alec Burks with 22.8 seconds remaining helped seal the win for the Heat (6-3), which has won three games in a row to open this season-long seven-game home stand.
“Shout out to Dwyane and his family,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Hopefully, they were able to watch this and find some joy in this one.”
Tyler Johnson, meanwhile, came off the bench and lifted the Heat with 17 points (8-of-12 shooting), four rebounds, three assists and two blocks in nearly 30 minutes.
“Great Team Win!!!,” Wade tweeted after the game. “How about that Tyler Johnson though. #heatnation”
Thursday’s showdown between two of the league’s best defensive teams was missing two stars. Aside from Wade being out for the Heat, Utah (4-4) played without shot-blocking center and leading rebounder Rudy Gobert (ankle).
Heat center Hassan Whiteside, who said he played like a trash can offensively, wasn’t able to take advantage with Gobert out. He struggled most of the night without Wade, who has assisted him on 35 percent of his field goals their first eight games together. But Whiteside found some success with Johnson feeding him late.
With the Heat clinging to 79-75 lead, Whiteside took a lob from Johnson and dunked it with 4:37 remaining. After a Burks three-pointer made it 81-78, Whiteside dunked a Johnson miss that bounced off the rim. Whiteside finished with nine points, 14 rebounds and five blocks.
For Utah, Derrick Favors filled in admirably for Gobert, scoring 25 points, grabbing 12 boards and blocking a career-high seven shots in nearly 40 minutes. Gordon Hayward had 24 points, 11 rebounds and Burks finished with 24 points and off the bench.
“They are taking it tough and you want them to on some level,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.
But the story once again was Bosh. Tuesday’s double-double against the Lakers was his fourth in five games. He had seven all of last season in 44 games.
Aside from his scoring and rebounding, Bosh has also taken on a strong leadership role with the second unit, moving to center when Whiteside goes to the bench and guiding the group to great success late in games. And — sort of like the cherry on top — he’s shooting nearly 40 percent from three-point range this season, something he said in the preseason he thought he could do.
Basically, Bosh is becoming the player the Heat was hoping he would after he signed a five-year, $118 million max deal, not long after LeBron James bolted for Cleveland and the team needed to fill the void.
“He’s been fantastic as a leader,” Spolestra said. “Everybody is turning to him in practice, shoot-arounds, film sessions, and then you see him to back it all up on the court.”