Chris Bosh earned the most respect Sunday he has gotten in one and a half years with the Miami Heat. And he didn’t even play.
Ever since the 6-foot-11 Bosh teamed up with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James before last season, he’s had to listen to plenty of “Two and a Half Men” jokes when it came to superstars on the Heat. Well, it’s becoming evident Bosh is pretty important.
Without their best big man Sunday, the Heat were trampled 93-83 by the Lakers. Starting no players taller than 6-9, Miami post players looked like tourists staring up at New York skyscrapers. Only they were the Los Angeles skyscrapers of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, both 7-feet tall.
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While Bosh, who missed his third straight game due to the death of his grandmother, might not be the most bulky big guy around, you better believe he would have made a difference Sunday. The Lakers outrebounded the Heat 44-35. Bynum and Gasol combined to outscore Miami’s two starting post men, 6-9 Joel Anthony and 6-8 Udonis Haslem, 27-7 and outrebounded them 23-6.
Throw in two guys who came off the bench for the Heat, 6-9 Juwan Howard and 6-11 Dexter Pittman, and here were the utterly hideous stats from four post players: two-of-16 shooting for 11 points with 11 rebounds and one block in 67 combined minutes.
Yes, the Heat did run into the “Masked Mamba” in guard Kobe Bryant, who had 33 points. But they sure would have been in better shape to not get sand kicked in their faces had they had Bosh and his averages of 18.4 points and 8.3 rebounds
The Heat also struggled Friday at Utah without Bosh, being outrebounded 50-32 in a 99-98 loss. And that probably would have been Bosh, an adept outside shooter, standing at the top of the key for the final shot in which James deferred to Haslem for a missed jumper at the buzzer.
“Chris is a major component of what we do on both ends of the court,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters after Sunday’s game. “That’s why we don’t listen to anybody when they talk about Chris’ importance or value.”
Bosh obviously is not better than either Wade or James, but at times he can be the most missed of the three. That’s because the two star wings duplicate each other a good bit while the Heat have no other post players even close in ability to Bosh.
The Heat went 8-1 earlier this season when Wade was out. That included a triple-overtime win at Atlanta when Wade and James were both sidelined, the only game James has missed this season.
Miami is now 1-2 this season without Bosh, having beaten Portland last Thursday to start a three-game trip. At least the good news is Bosh will be back Tuesday at home against New Jersey.
But the bad news is the lack of depth that the Heat, who at least had centers Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Erick Dampier and Jamaal Magloire hanging around last season, continue to have this season in the post. Even when Bosh plays, it is a concern against teams that have a big front line.
Now you know why the Heat, who recently signed project center Mickell Gladness to a second 10-day contract for the 15th and final roster spot, are maintaining their roster flexibility in an attempt to pick up a veteran big man later his month. The trade deadline is March 15, and there is a week after that in which players can be bought out and still be able to sign elsewhere with playoff eligibility.
There’s not much out there when it comes to free agents, with Francisco Elson heading a list of freshly starched big men. The ultimate for the Heat would be if New Orleans is unable to trade center Chris Kaman and the Heat could buy him out. But it remains a long shot that Kaman, an All-Star two years ago, will become a free agent.
What’s the best option after that for the Heat? It could be praying that they don’t run into a team in the playoffs that is a bad matchup inside.
It was a futile showing by the post players Miami rolled out Sunday. Howard, 39, was dusted off and responded by shooting 0-of-5 and having an airball jumper by Bryant hit him on the head when he was under the basket.
Sunday’s loss also reinforced that the Eddy Curry experiment has been a failure. The 7-foot Curry played in his first NBA game in more than two years Jan. 19 against the Lakers in Miami, and actually looked not too bad with six points and three rebounds in six minutes of a 98-87 win.
But Curry, trying to make a comeback after battling weight problems, has done virtually nothing since then, totaling a combined four points and three rebounds in eight games. That Curry, who hasn’t played since Feb. 17, never took off his warm-ups Sunday is an indication of where he stands with Spoelstra.
Of course, all should be better when Bosh returns. When he last was with the Heat, they won nine straight games, all by 12 or more points.
Few thought this is something that would be uttered when Bosh showed up in Miami as a supporting actor to Wade and James. But he sure is looking indispensable.