With starters LeBron James (strained right hamstring), Dwyane Wade (sprained right ankle) and Mario Chalmers (ditto) all sitting out Sunday night's game between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs — a perhaps not-so-subtle return of the favor from the Heat to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who famously sat San Antonio starters Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Danny Green, as well as key reserve Manu Ginobili, before the teams' first meeting of the season back in November, earning the Spurs a $250,000 fine from NBA Commissioner David Stern — coach Erik Spoelstra was banking on his experienced reserves and role players to take care of business in a pivotal game between the teams with the top two records in the league. On the game's biggest possession, though, it was his lone active All-Star who took the reins:
After the defense of Heat forward Udonis Haslem forced a critical miss by Duncan with just 11 seconds left and Miami down 86-85, Spoelstra elected not to burn one of his two remaining timeouts, preferring to let his team push the ball, read and react. The decision led to an early-offense high-screen between Chris Bosh and Ray Allen, who handled San Antonio's attempted trap and kicked the ball to Bosh up top on the pick-and-pop. Bosh, who had already made two 3-pointers on the evening and has taken more long balls this season than in any of his nine prior NBA campaigns, calmly stepped into the deep shot and buried it, putting Miami up by two with 1.1 seconds remaining.
Pop's sideline out-of-bounds play got Parker a quick look on the move off a curl, but his attempted midrange banker went wide right off the glass, giving the Heat an 88-86 win without its two top scorers and starting point guard, and giving Miami a three-game advantage over San Antonio in the race for the NBA's best record and eventual home-court advantage in a potential NBA Finals matchup.
Counted on to act as Miami's focal point with James and Wade in street clothes, Bosh finished with 23 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks in the win. In 221 regular-season games since coming together in South Beach, James and Wade have sat out in the same game only five times; in three of those, Bosh sat, too. (All came in mid-to-late April, with Miami resting up for the postseason.) In the other two games — Jan. 5, 2012, against the Atlanta Hawks and last night — Bosh has averaged 28 points, 11.5 rebounds, four assists and two blocks per game, hitting 54.8 percent of his shots and going 4 for 8 from 3-point range, including a final-second triple to push Atlanta to overtime (where the Heat eventually won) and Sunday's game-winner. Pretty nice third option to have when you want to give your two top guns a breather, huh?
Speaking of nice options: Thanks to the NBA's Phantom cameras, we can check out Bosh's clutch triple in super slow motion ... which is especially great if you like watching your game-winning heroes unhinge their jaws all reptile-like. Move your body like a snake, Bosh:
When you're the star of the show, as Bosh was on Sunday, you're going to be the first choice for the postgame interview with Sun Sports sideline reporter Jason Jackson; that's just science. But with Bosh — typically the one who makes things weird, videobomb-wise — moving up to the main interview slot, and good ol' Smiley No. 6 on the shelf, someone would need to emerge to keep Miami's long-running interview-interruption gag going. And on a night where the Heat's role players had to step up, Norris Cole took over:
Not the strongest performance, but still: Good job, good effort, Norris. Your contributions are appreciated.