Birthday boy Bosh blocks Blazers’ final shot to help back up criticism
MIAMI — It certainly was an eventful three days for Chris Bosh.
After taking verbal shots at his struggling team Saturday night, the Miami Heat star’s birthday party Sunday offered a brief respite from the defending champs’ recent troubles.
Then on Monday night, Bosh delivered the decisive blow to secure a much-needed win for the Heat.
Bosh blocked Damian Lillard’s layup try with 2.1 seconds left to give Miami a 93-91 victory against the Portland Trail Blazers at AmericanAirlines Arena on Monday night.
That final play followed LeBron James’ go-ahead driving layup with 11.4 seconds to go.
"When you talk, you back it up — that’s what it’s all about," said James, who also had been critical of the Heat following Saturday night’s loss at New Orleans.
"We have guys in here that will deliver words and then go back it up."
Bosh, who had 15 points and eight rebounds, pooh-poohed the idea of his only block being a 30th birthday present to himself.
"Nah, it’s just a good play, man. More than anything, I just want to be solid on the defensive end," he said. "I feel I’ve let my team down some and we’re to the point now where you have to lead by example."
Bosh had expressed frustration after Miami lost to the Pelicans to make it seven defeats in 11 games — something unexpected of a two-time defending NBA champions.
"We’re not expressing ourselves in the locker room or on the court," Bosh said in New Orleans. "So I figure I’ll be the first one to say we suck and we need to turn it around and if we don’t turn it around, we’ll be watching the championship at home."
On Sunday, the Heat players helped Bosh celebrate his birthday at a carnival-like party at Marlins Park.
"I think it was good," Bosh said. "It’s tough enough dogging each other and pushing each other, it’s tough. You have good and bad days — and we’ve had more bad than good in this month.
"But sometimes being able to do something where everybody’s together … you can just see smiles on each other’s faces, you can kind of unwind a little but and not be in that tense situation."
Playing without Dwyane Wade — due to a sprained ankle, not his knees — the Heat started fairly well against Portland to lead by four at the half. Miami kicked things into high gear in the third and early fourth quarters, building a 17-point lead.
But the Trail Blazers stormed back and tied the score when Mo Williams sank two free throws with 30.9 seconds remaining.
"We needed a win and we needed a tough game," said center Greg Oden, who started against the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2007.
"Guys made big plays, We just needed something like that. What we really needed was a win."
James, who postgame Saturday said the Heat were making "too many excuses," liked what he saw against Portland.
"We had a sense of urgency from the start. We played well against a very, very good team," he said.
But the outcome wasn’t decided until the final seconds, when James and Bosh spoke with their actions.
"If I didn’t turn over the ball the last two times and pass up other opportunities … it was time for me to shoot one," said James, who finished with 32 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals.
"I felt like that was that moment, and I’m always happy when I’m able to come through for my team."
Miami moved to within two games (one in the loss column) behind Eastern Conference top seed Indiana. The Heat will visit the Pacers on Wednesday night in the first of the rival’ final two regular-season meetings.
"It’s coming down to a photo finish," Bosh said. "We have the unique opportunity, no matter what’s happened this whole season, where we’re within striking distance. We’ve been putting the No. 1 seed off, well it’s here, and it’ll be a great playoff atmosphere. I can’t wait to play there Wednesday.
"I know everybody was trying to make the games important back in December, well, now they’re important. Everybody’s getting what they want."