MIAMI — Chris Bosh stammered slightly when trying to explain how NBA playoff games are rougher and tougher than ones in the regular season.
He had to really think about his answer.
“Yeah, it’s been a while for me,” Bosh said.
Quite an understatement.
It takes four victories to win a post-season series. Bosh would say those four wins are far from easy to get — considering he’s been part of three playoff-game triumphs in his entire career, the last of those coming in 2008 with the Toronto Raptors. That’s one of the many reasons why Bosh came to the Miami Heat, who expect a bit more than just getting out of the first round.
Miami’s post-season starts Saturday, when the Philadelphia 76ers visit for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarter-finals. To say Bosh has been waiting somewhat impatiently for the playoff challenge to arrive, well, that also would be quite an understatement.
“The past week felt like a month,” Bosh said as the regular season wound down. “It’s gone by very slow.”
He’s hardly the only Heat player who feels that way.
On July 9, the night Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade all posed for the first time in Heat uniforms at a rock-concert-esque welcome party in Miami, they became the league’s villains, the team everybody else loved to hate.
Bosh took that harder than most at times.
He expressed his frustration with it several times over the course of the season, was offended when what he thought was a harmless comment about the type of cable television he could get while living in Toronto turned into a two-day-long story in Ontario and acknowledged just before the all-star break he felt “unappreciated” by some around the league.
“But my teammates here appreciate me,” Bosh said.
That was proven over the season’s final month. When the Heat were in a five-game swoon after the all-star break, Bosh publicly came out and asked for the ball more. He got it, and it’s no coincidence his field-goal shooting percentage rose six per cent over the season’s final five weeks.
Now he’s in the playoffs for just the third time in his eight seasons, with Saturday set to be just the 12th post-season game of his career. If the Heat are going to capture that title, Bosh almost certainly will need to play a significant role.
“We need Chris to step up, just like we need me to step up and LeBron to step up,” Wade said. “That’s why we all came together, to do this thing together.”
Bosh finished the season averaging 18.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. The Heat were the only team in the league with three players ranked among the NBA’s top 25 scorers this season, with James second (26.7) and Wade fourth (25.5). Bosh was 24th.
That makes him often seem like Miami’s forgotten man.
James and Wade get the vast majority of the attention, which is understandable and won’t be changing anytime soon. Of the players in this 16-team playoff field, James ranks No. 1 in post-season scoring average at 29.3 points per game, Wade is No. 2 at 26.3 per game.
Bosh may be the third option, but he’s no fallback. The Heat were 21-7 when he had at least 10 points and 10 rebounds this season.
“I think some people might look past them, but it’s hard to say that when you have those three players,” Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love said. “On that team, that’s really all they talk about.
“They have a lot of good players on their team. They’re well coached. I think they’ll turn it up come playoff time.”
Bosh expects that to happen.
The last time he won a championship was high school. With the Raptors, he never even got to know what leading a series felt like. Toronto lost Game 1 to New Jersey in 2007, then dropped the opening game of the 2008 playoffs in Orlando.
He’s waited a long time to change his playoff fortunes.
“We know the challenge in front of us,” Bosh said. “We have the type of team that does whatever it takes to win. If we need to be more physical, we’re going to do that. If we need to rebound more, we’re going to do that. More paint points, we’re going to do that.”