MIAMI — The folks in street clothes at the scorer’s table always keep track of rebounds at Miami Heat games. Now, so will a guy wearing a tank top.
Much-maligned Heat center Chris Bosh is vowing to count caroms while he plays. Apparently, that will make him more cognizant of whether he is staving off critics.
“I’m just counting them so everybody will get off my back,” said Bosh, who had nobody on his case after he grabbed nine in Sunday’s 99-71 rout of the Washington Wizards at AmericanAirlines Arena. “That’s really it. That’s why I’m counting them. I’m like, ‘Hey, it was nine today.’ Just a start. And I got to get nine the next game, maybe even 10.”
If the 6-foot-11 Bosh grabbed 10, he would be living up to last season’s prediction, when he spoke of averaging that many a night. He didn’t come close, finishing at 7.9.
This season he’s been even worse. He’s averaging 7.6, on pace to be the lowest since he pulled down 7.4 a game as a Toronto rookie in 2003-04.
So why the decision now to start tallying boards?
Well, things had bottomed out Friday, when the Heat, who have rebounded poorly throughout the season, were obliterated 48-28 in a 96-89 home loss to Chicago. Bosh had grabbed five in that game to conclude a week that featured him averaging 4.3 boards in three games and being outrebounded 29-4 last Monday by Orlando center Nikola Vucevic.
“The only way we can do a better job on the boards is if each guy challenges himself a little more,” said Bosh, who had a solid all-around night against the Wizards with 17 points and four blocked shots, a season high and tied for the most he’s had in his three Miami seasons. “So I looked at it. I got to challenge myself a lot more than I have been. And I’ll make a better effort on the boards. And it was a pretty decent night.”
Yes, it was. Bosh didn’t get 10 but he played a modest 32 minutes. Had he played his normal 34, he just might have reached double digits.
While it did come against the woeful Wizards (4-28), the Heat (23-9) still were quite pleased with winning the battle of the boards 50-39. It’s a step in the right direction for a team that entered the game last in the NBA in rebounding percentage.
Also shaking off the board blues was forward Udonis Haslem, who recently became the leading rebounder in Heat history. After averaging just 4.2 boards in his previous six games, Haslem had a season-high 12.
“I wanted to be relentless and chase every rebound,” said Haslem, whose Heat certainly were relentless in the fourth quarter, outrebounding the Wizards 16-8 and outscoring them 30-11, including a 21-0 spurt to close the game. “That’s was my mission (Sunday). Nothing more, nothing less.”
Miami forward LeBron James said Haslem was “huge on the glass.” As for James, he wasn’t, grabbing just two.
But perhaps that was good. James, whose average of 8.3 is still on pace to the best of his 10-year career, has been called upon far too much this season to carry the Heat on the boards.
He’s been getting banged up in the process. James suffered a bruised knee last Wednesday against Dallas and was hampered against the Bulls.
James on Sunday tweaked his left ankle on a drive with 2:36 left in the third quarter and went down in pain. But he stayed in the game after a timeout and finished with a game-high 24 points and seven assists.
“My ankle, just add it to the list (of injuries), but I’ll be ready for the next one,” vowing to be in the lineup when the Heat on Tuesday start a six-game trip at Indiana.
Miami on Sunday also got 20 points off the bench from guard Ray Allen. But, just as important, Allen had six boards, one less than his best effort of the season.
Everybody on the Heat is trying to rebound more. With guard Dwyane Wade grabbing seven, they had four players pull down six more against the Wizards.
When the Heat don’t rebound, much of the criticism falls upon Bosh. After all, he’s a center and aren’t centers supposed to rebound?
And Bosh had proven in the past an ability to rebound well. While with the Raptors from 2003-09, he averaged more than 10 in a season three times. Even this season, he’s had outings of 16 and 18 rebounds.
“Life isn’t fair,” Bosh said when asked if all the criticism he gets regarding rebounding is fair. “I’m over that. I don’t really read it. But if we win the rebounding battle, then give me credit. Even if I don’t deserve it, give it to me.”
Actually, it’s not very often the Heat have won the rebounding battle this season. Sunday marked just the ninth time in 32 games.
It might seem rather basic, but Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said Bosh did something against Wizards that really helped his rebounding. He jumped.
“I just like to see him get off the floor,” Spoelstra said. “I think he probably had more jumps in this game than he’s had in a while. He was active… On the rebounds, even ones he wasn’t getting, he was getting off the floor… It felt like he was a 7-foot player, which he is with his wingspan.”
The athletic Bosh is hardly a guy who can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. He showed Sunday he can jump for rebounds and count how many he’s gotten at the same time.