CHICAGO – Welcome to the Eastern Conference semifinals, Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer.
All but absent the first two games, the big men for Miami and Chicago asserted themselves in a big way in Game 3 on Friday night.
Bosh scored 20 points and hauled in 19 rebounds to help the Heat beat the Bulls 104-94 victory. Boozer wasn't bad, either, with 21 points for Chicago, but it was Miami coming away with a 2-1 lead in the series.
A big reason for that was Bosh stepping up on a night when the other "Big Three" struggled. LeBron James was off target for most of the game before coming on strong down the stretch to finish with 25 points and Dwyane Wade was a nonfactor.
Bosh, however, got going early on. He knocked down shots from the baseline and top of the key. He hit a 3-pointer, too. But he was also active on the glass, finishing one rebound shy of the Heat's postseason record. It was the sort of performance Miami envisioned seeing on a more regular basis when it formed that superstar triumvirate back in the summer of 2010.
"I try to move around as much as possible," he said. "Dwyane and LeBron, they're very unselfish basketball players. They're going to be making a lot of plays for us and Mario (Chalmers) as well. I try to mix it up a lot. I try to space. I try to dive. I try to get behind the defense to get easy buckets, but if I move to the open spot, usually they find me. Those are my opportunities to be aggressive. If I'm open, I'm going to shoot or make the extra pass if need be. We've been playing together awhile, and seeing the same situations over and over, you can just kind of feel the game and know where to go."
That aggression has been questioned at times. He tends to fade at times, blend in rather than assert himself. It was that way in the first two games of this series, when he scored nine and then 13 points, but it was a different story for him on Friday.
Same for Boozer.
He clearly had his best game of the series and was involved from the start after scoring a total of 14 points in the first two. Some of that had to do with him simply being more aggressive, but it was also clear that the Bulls were looking for him.