Miami Heat

Ethan J. Skolnick: Aggressive Chris Bosh gives Heat gift-wrapped win

Gerald Green, greets Chris Bosh, of the Miami Heat, after a Bosh basket to break a tie score against the New Orleans Pelicans in the fourth quarter of a game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Thursday, December 25, 2015.
Gerald Green, greets Chris Bosh, of the Miami Heat, after a Bosh basket to break a tie score against the New Orleans Pelicans in the fourth quarter of a game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Thursday, December 25, 2015.

Chris Bosh has good cause to consider himself a conversationalist. Few NBA players are as varied in their interests, or as skillful with linguistics, as the Heat’s power forward. So, these days, Bosh tends to try to engage opponents in playful repartee, as he often did to Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis throughout Miami’s 94-88 overtime victory on Christmas, a victory that spoke to the aggressive way he needs to play.

“I like having fun out there on the court, talking to players, just let them know I’m there,” Bosh said after leading the Heat with 30 points on 25 shots. “I just want people to talk to me. That’s all I want. ‘Hey buddy, what’s going on? All right?’ it doesn’t have to be a hate match like the ’90s.”

How did that go Friday?

“He rebutted with a couple but, he’s a little younger, so he’ll get more clever,” Bosh said. “I didn’t say anything [back then]. Now I can’t stop talking.”

The Heat as a whole was far more concerned with another sort of Davis rebuttal, the rebuttal the former No. 1 overall pick can render with endless arms and boundless skills, and those worries looked warranted early, as Davis had a double-double by halftime (20 points, 10 rebounds) while making half of his 18 shots.

At that stage, Bosh was 3-of-11 for just nine points, even as he was repeatedly left alone by a strategy that stunned both Bosh and Goran Dragic, with the second man repeatedly shading toward Dragic, allowing Bosh to step back and then up, into space.

“So we were like, ‘OK, if they’re going to play us like that, we’re just going to run pick-and-rolls and give Chris open looks,’” Dragic said.

When had Bosh last seen that coverage?

“First time in my career, yeah,” Bosh said, somewhat seriously, it seemed. “Definitely first time this season. It definitely shocked me a little bit.”

As did his lack of accuracy.

“Oh man, I felt really bad after a while for shooting so much,” Bosh said. “I’m like, man, but I’m open every time. I mean, I kept missing. It was pretty much like target practice,”

He wasn’t alone. This was hardly a Miami masterpiece throughout.

“It was just ugly,” said Dwyane Wade, who missed 13 of 20 shots, though he did sink a critical turnaround in overtime. “Ugly game.”

Uglier than any holiday sweater. Miami, just as against Detroit on Wednesday, started the contest flowing only for the struggling second unit to squander much of the lead.

And even after pulling ahead by 11 as the Pelicans shot pitifully in the third quarter, the Heat couldn’t pull away. Miami scored just 51 points in the second through fourth quarters, allowed Ryan Anderson to get rolling in the fourth, and needed Davis to miss a 20-footer with 1.7 seconds left just to escape to overtime.

By then, Bosh had found his touch. He made 6-of-12 shots in the second half, with five conversions from outside the paint. Meanwhile, Davis — whom Bosh was usually guarding, especially as Hassan Whiteside (17 rebounds) sat — was going 3 of 9.

“He was shooting in my face all night and making quite a bit, so I wanted to return the favor,” Bosh said. “In a matchup like that, I take it very seriously. Christmas Day, against one of the best in the league, I’m going to rise to the occasion.”

In overtime, Bosh did so differently, on the interior, drawing a foul on a drive, making two free throws, then making a short hook. His 25 shots were his most since Dec. 28, 2013, one of his marquee evenings with the Heat, when he drained a three-pointer to beat Portland.

This wasn’t as dramatic but was demonstrative. It showed how much this Miami squad requires him to be assertive. While it’s true that Bosh averages the same 13.6 shots in the Heat’s 17 wins as in Miami’s 11 losses — shooting a higher percentage in victories — it doesn’t seem likely the Heat can reach great heights unless he raises his overall output.

“I like when he shoots the ball a lot,” Wade said. “I would love him to shoot 20 shots every night, that’s just me.”

Wade noted that, often, Bosh will swing the ball to the other side, to keep everyone involved. That can be necessary. So, though, is some selfishness.

“Most of his shots are open,” Wade said. “In this game, if you’re a 4 man, you lick your chops, because you are going to get some open looks.”

On this Christmas, a remarkable 19 of Bosh’s 25 shots were uncontested. Quite the present from the Pelicans.

“I’m really going to have to shoot the ball better, to capitalize,” Bosh said.

He made enough for Davis and the Pelicans, well, to know he was there.

“I think he’s a very underrated player,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “Even though he’s an All-Star, I still don’t think he gets the notoriety he deserves.”

On this Christmas, that assertion made for compelling conversation.

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