For Heat, as Chris Bosh goes, so goes the team
MIAMI -- In good times and bad times, it's becoming apparent that the Miami Heat team assembled for this season can go only as far as Chris Bosh takes them.
Of course, this is what Bosh knew when he spurned the Houston Rockets in the offseason to re-sign with Miami. Instead of being a third option once again with a championship contender, he took on the challenge of being the go-to guy in Miami, and his hot start powered the Heat's 5-2 early record.
During that span, Bosh scored no fewer than 21 points in each of the Heat's seven games. He was getting to the free-throw line regularly and his 3-point shooting was consistent enough that defenders had to pick their poison when guarding him on the perimeter. Too close and Bosh would speed past them with his quick first step on the way to the rim. Give him too much distance and Bosh would make his defender pay with either a smooth jumper or maybe even a pump fake to get his man off his feet if he overcompensated to earn a trip to the free-throw line.
Since then, however, it's no coincidence that the Heat's current losing streak -- extended to three games with Sunday's 91-84 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks -- has matched up with Bosh's struggles. In those three games, Bosh has shot a combined 12 of 49 for a 24.4 field-goal percent and his rebounding numbers have taken a dip. He's also made three 3-pointers out of 16 attempts in his past five games.
It hasn't helped that Dwyane Wade has been out for the past two games, but the Heat's system of ball movement early in the season has been thwarted without Bosh leading the way in addition to the Heat's overall team defense struggles. To make matters worse, Bosh appears to be trying too hard to bounce back from slow starts and is forcing the issue with poor shot selection in addition to being off-target.
"To say 'sit back, the game will come to you,' I don't think that's a wise decision on my part," Bosh said Sunday after scoring just 10 points on 2-of-17 shooting. "Yeah, I'm going to press. I'm going to press until I get over the hump. It's not just going to fall on my lap. I'm going to have to work to get there. I feel that most of the shots I shot were good shots and they are shots I usually make. Whether it's good defense, no defense, if I'm by myself or if it's a layup, it's not going in right now. So I've just got to stick with it, I guess."
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, for his part, disagrees with the notion that Bosh is pressing too much.
"I actually think he had some good clean looks," he said. "He had some other looks that were contested at the end of the clock. We need to do a better job of getting him in places where he can feel comfortable and where he can have a counter to where he's open and then get him going."
In wins or losses, the Heat have counted on several players to spread the offensive workload, but there's no question Bosh must lead this team on offense with or without Wade in the lineup. There are few players in the NBA, let alone on the Heat's roster, with his versatile game and consistent shooting inside the paint, from the elbow or beyond the arc.
Bosh was visibly frustrated in the second half against the Bucks as his shots continued to miss the mark. In one sequence, he bricked a free throw and grimaced as he took a few steps back to reset. The AmericanAirlines Arena crowd did not boo him but instead cheered him on, knowing that the fate of their team rests largely on his shoulders. Bosh sank the next free throw.
The good news is that with the NBA's packed schedule, there is always another game right around the corner to get things right again. For Bosh, another opportunity comes Monday night against the Brooklyn Nets on the road.
"The only thing I know to do is continue to see where I can do better, look at the film and come back tomorrow," Bosh said.