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NBA's No. 2 target of ridicule Chris Bosh delivers for Heat in NBA Finals

Marc J. Spears
Yahoo Sports

 

SAN ANTONIO – When he was the star of the Toronto Raptors, Chris Bosh was used to watching other big-name players shine during the NBA's championship round.

"I remember having pizza parties at my house watching the Finals," Bosh told Yahoo Sports. "I was back working out right now because I had been off for so long."

Finally, after four seasons of being the subject of so much social media ridicule and criticism as the Miami Heat's third star behind LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Bosh delivered his star moment in an NBA Finals.

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Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade share a moment after helping the Heat beat the Spurs in Game 2. (AP)

Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade share a moment after helping the Heat beat the Spurs in Game 2. (AP)

The All-Star made a clutch 3-pointer in the corner, right in front of the San Antonio Spurs' bench, to give the Heat a two-point lead with 1:18 remaining in Game 2 of the Finals. Bosh, who finished with 18 points, later threw an assist for a Dwyane Wade layup that sealed Miami's 98-96 victory, a win that tied the series.

Such a scenario typically applies to James, who starred most of this Sunday night with 35 points and 10 rebounds. But Bosh was the clutch player in the late stages this time.

James said over the weekend that he was the easiest target in sports. Bosh claimed in Sunday's postgame media conference that he's No. 2. He used to be bothered by it all – the unflattering social media memes and cracks about his off-beat antics – until after the Heat lost the 2011 Finals to the Dallas Mavericks in his first season with James and Wade. After that, his skin thickened and he stopped paying attention to the criticism.

"Our loss in 2011 kind of cleansed us," Bosh said. "We were broken down all the time. I was able to build myself back up from that. … All I care about is a championship. That makes you focus on your priorities.

"I've always cared more about the game than anything else. The game, my family and my teammates. I keep those things close to me, keep working, keep going no matter what." Three picks after James and a pick before Dwyane Wade, Bosh was selected fourth overall in the 2003 NBA draft by the Raptors. Bosh joined Vince Carter to immediately form a star duo. It didn't last long as Carter was dealt to the New Jersey Nets in 2004, leaving Bosh as the face of the Raptors.

Bosh made four All-Star game appearances in Toronto and averaged at least 22 points in his last five seasons there. He became the franchise's all-time leading scorer, but his two postseason appearances ended in the first round.

Bosh could have remained the man in Toronto. But yearning to win big immediately, he took the third scoring option behind James and Wade with the Heat. James, Wade and Bosh nicknamed themselves "The Heatles" and the latter instantly became the Ringo Starr of the bunch.

Gone were the days of averaging over 22 points per game. Former Raptors coach Sam Mitchell used to force Bosh to score in the post. But with Miami, Bosh adapted his game to shoot more jumpers and 3-pointers to open up driving lanes for James and Wade.

"I just saw something with this team the way LeBron and Dwyane attack in the paint the way they do and me having a chance to spread the floor," Bosh said. "I just want to work on it, work on it and work on it. It took a few years to get here. I've been working on it for a long time and now I'm totally comfortable. I can even get better."

Teammate Ray Allen can certainly relate as he went from being the face of the Seattle SuperSonics to the third option with the Boston Celtics behind Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett en route to winning his first NBA title in 2008.

"If you want to win, you have to do it," Allen said. "People say well you can't do this and you don't do this anymore. No, it's not that. I can't do it. It's just not in the game plan for this team to be successful. [Bosh has] hit enough big shots where winning championships is the ultimate objective for him."

James received criticism for passing to Bosh on a failed 3-point attempt in a previous playoff loss this season against the Indiana Pacers. But with the Heat down 93-92, it was Bosh who took and missed a 3-pointer with 2:07 remaining.

With less than two minutes left, James had the ball in his hands with the Heat still down one. But instead of taking the big shot, he drew in the defense and passed to an open Bosh, who came through this time to give Miami a 95-93 lead. "C.B. had just missed one, got a great look, but if I draw two and his man leaves him again," James said. "I went right back to him and he knocked it down. I got a lot of confidence in my teammates."

There was no hesitation in Bosh, similar to his Toronto days. He also sealed Game 2 with an assist to Wade for a layup with 9.4 seconds left.

"I have more repetition than others," Bosh said. "I took a lot of shots in Toronto. It helps a little bit just having the ability and confidence in yourself. I've made shots before in crunch situations."

Bosh's key plays were probably a surprise to most AT&T Center with exception to Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson, who saw him make headlines many times while idolizing the ex-Raptors star as a Toronto native.

"Bosh was able to make the 15-footer, handle it and was athletic,” Thompson said. "That's exactly the type of player I wanted to emulate my game after. He came to Toronto with the Converse deal and he became a star. I've loved him since Day 1.

"It's kind of a different role now. But he's still an All-Star, a guy who puts it on the line night in and night out. And he made that shot in the corner.”

Bosh could have an opportunity to be the man again. He can opt out of the final two years of his contract paying $20.5 million and $22.1 million, respectively, to become a free agent. Bosh's hometown Dallas Mavericks could have interest to eventually replace Dirk Nowitzki as the next face of the franchise.

On this night, Bosh maintained that he would be with the Heat next season. He'd rather keep playing in the Finals behind James and Wade.

"It's exciting," Bosh said. "I have great teammates. A great locker room. Stand-up guys. Everybody puts the team first and it's Miami. It makes it a little easier."

It certainly beats pizza parties in June.

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