Chris Bosh calls his shot
The play began as a collaborative effort during a Miami timeout. The Heat then lured the Trail Blazers into a defensive breakdown. There was an unorthodox pass. A perfect shot. A celebration.
It all led to Heat coach Eric Spoelstra, quite justly, declaring Chris Bosh the "man of the night, after Bosh's 25-footer with 0.5 seconds left beat Portland 108-107.
Under normal circumstances, the ball probably would not have been in Boshs hands at a moment like that, for Miami's final possession Saturday night at Moda Center. More likely, the shot would have gone to LeBron James, the NBAs reigning MVP.
James, however, missed the game after injuring his groin and aggravating an ankle injury on Friday in Miamis 108-103 overtime loss at Sacramento.
With Dwyane Wade dealing with lingering injury issues, as well, it was Bosh the oft-overlooked member of the Heats Big Three who was forced to step into the role of Miami star.
Even if he had not hit that final 3, Bosh would have had a monster game. He finished with 37 points and 10 rebounds and played solid defense on Blazers' star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
Chris Bosh was terrific, Spoelstra said. Hes a true two-way player. He took the challenge for the majority of his minutes on one of the premier players in this league (Aldridge) and then had to shoulder a big-time offensive load. That takes some pretty incredible stamina, but also a skill set that he put on full display tonight on both ends of the court.
The Blazers took a 107-105 lead with 7.7 seconds remaining when Nicolas Batum sank two free throws. With the game slipping away from them, the Heat called for time.
Spoelstra originally envisioned the final play being very different. He drew up a play in which Bosh would catch the ball on the run and pop a jumper.
My call at the end of the game was much more conservative, Spoelstra said. I drew something up to get him (Bosh) on the move.
When he heard the call, Bosh more or less pulled rank on his coach. Bosh told Spoelstra he wanted to shoot the 3.
Ive been playing for a little while now, Bosh said. I figured it was going to be a long 2, and I didnt want that. I knew I would be more open and have more space if I popped for 3, and in that situation I wanted to go for the win.
My momentum was going to be taking me away (from the basket) and I was going to have to stop and set and there wasnt much time. I wanted to come downhill and be able to step into it.
Bosh laughed when asked if he was careful to be gentle with his coachs ego.
Its not delicate, Bosh said. Its very intense. These are moments when we have to trust each other. I just told him I was going for the jugular.
When Spoelstra heard Boshs preference, he quickly agreed.
Why did I even diagram something else for him? Spoelstra said, laughing. He had already hit two 3s (in the fourth quarter), and he was feeling it, he wanted it. As soon as he said it, I was like, Yeah, that makes sense. It was much better than what I had planned.
After the call was made, Heat guard Ray Allen the NBAs all-time record holder in 3-pointers made felt that Bosh was going to win the game.
I didnt have doubt, Allen said. You just have faith that he knows what hes doing and that he would get a good play and a good shot. Thats all we ever ask for. If he misses it, we say, Hey, he had a good look.
As they broke the huddle, Bosh had a conversation with Wade.
D, you get it, Im slipping out and Im shooting a 3, Bosh told the Miami guard.
With five seconds remaining, Wade got the ball on the left side of the 3-point line with Bosh close to him. Bosh set a brush screen on Batum, then rolled off, toward the top of the arc.
Wade knew that if he could penetrate just a few feet on the dribble, he would be able to pull Aldridge off Bosh, just long enough to give Bosh a clean look at the basket.
I knew he was going to be on the 3 (line) and he wanted to shoot it, Wade said. My job was to drive his man to me and just give him some time.
Aldridge bit, following Wade toward the basket.
With both Batum and Aldridge trying to stop Wade from going in for a clear layup, Bosh was completely alone beyond the arc. Wade got to within three feet of the basket before throwing a no-look pass behind him, knowing that Bosh would still be there to catch it.
The pass was not quite true, forcing Bosh to move several feet to his right.
He threw a crazy pass, Bosh said. I aint even going to lie.
To corral Wades pass, Bosh had to extend his right hand and then draw the ball in to the center of his chest.
When Bosh gained control of the ball, less than two seconds remained in the game. Still, he ws open.
Nobody was even in the vicinity, Bosh said. I didnt have to rush, and I was able to lock in on goal the whole time.
Bosh set his feet. With the shot lined up, he jumped. At his apex, he fired. He landed milliseconds after the ball sailed away from his left hand. With the ball on its way, Bosh began hopping up and down, knowing already what the Moda Center crowd would soon find out.
The shot was true.
The Heat had pulled out a road win against the Blazers, who had come into the game tied with Oklahoma City for the NBAs best record.
After the basket, the Blazers called timeout. Bosh screamed in joy as his teammates, led by James, dressed in a cream colored suit and black framed glasses, surrounded him.
It was awesome, Bosh said. The whole team came out there. It was one of those surreal moments you get every now and then. You cherish it.
After the game, James stood in the locker room, playing the ham as he pondered in a loud voice laced with profanity why the official had told him to not come so far off the bench after Bosh hit the game-winner.
As Spoelstra pointed out, having the reigning MVP on the court only at the end of the game to celebrate is not something the Heat are hunting for. On Saturday night, though, the Heat were Boshs team and Portland was his city.
I can have a bigger brush, Bosh said, of being Miamis go-to player. It was fun. (James) could sit back chill.