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MARK HEISLER / ON THE NBA

Chris Bosh, the Miami Heat's third wheel, is looking like the real deal

While Chicago's defense focuses on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Bosh, the third element in Heat's Big Three, burns Bulls for 34 points as Miami wins, 96-85, to take 2-1 lead in Eastern finals.

May 22, 2011|Mark Heisler
  • Miami power forward Chris Bosh celebrates during the fourth quarter of the Heat's 96-85 victory over the Chicago Bulls in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday.
Miami power forward Chris Bosh celebrates during the fourth quarter of… (Marc Serota / Getty Images )

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Everyone knows the Miami Heat's Big Three — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and . . . uh . . .

Chris Bosh!

Whatever he is, third of the Big Three, or King of the Other Guys, Bosh scored 34 points Sunday night, leading the Heat to victory in the battle of supporting casts as Miami beat the Bulls, 96-85, to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

"There's absolutely nothing easy in this series," Miami Coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It's a battle, it's a scrap, it's a fight every single possession."

Now, it's win Game 4 on Tuesday or go home in a hole for the young Bulls, getting a crash course in life in the fast lane.

Derrick Rose, their star and the NBA's MVP, was bottled up for the second game in a row.

Joakim Noah, their unofficial MVP, was caught on camera appearing to say something to a fan like what Kobe Bryant was caught on camera saying to a referee.

Noah later apologized. The NBA had no comment but will surely fine him.

Oh, and Rose had been quoted as saying steroids are a "huge" issue in the NBA, then recanted before Sunday's game.

As for the Heat, fame isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Showing what this series has degenerated into — er, become — this turned into a shootout between Bosh and the Bulls' Carlos Boozer (26 points) as both defenses continued to load up for Rose, James and Wade.

James (22 points) and Wade (17) combined for 39 points, shooting 12 for 30.

Unfortunately for the Bulls, who would gladly concede those numbers and take their chances, they have only one superstar for Miami to contain, or as Spoelstra put it, "Try to get your chest in front of that tornado."

Rose was held to 20 points, shooting eight for 19, taking only two shots in the fourth quarter.

"I thought Bosh was terrific from the start of the game," Chicago Coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I thought we allowed him to get his confidence early. And then he's hard to slow down when he gets going like that."

Of course, that's what happens when you try to load up for two superstars, not just one.

Since Bosh isn't chopped liver, himself, he's the hole in Thibodeau's theory. He made 13 of 18 shots Sunday.

"Obviously you have to commit to Wade and James, but that doesn't absolve you of covering the others," Thibodeau said. "You have to have the ability to do both. You have to go in with a multiple-effort mind-set."

That's a good one, multiple-effort mind-set.

That means if you're Noah, you have to guard your man while eyeing James and Wade, ready to jump out and help if they take a step toward the hoop.

Oh, and if the ball goes to Bosh, who has a two-inch height advantage over the 6-foot-8 Boozer, can you get over there, too?

In other words, good luck.

That's assuming Bosh brings it. No longer the No. 1 option as he was in Toronto, Bosh has become a human dumping ground, ritually targeted when things go wrong, the Pau Gasol of the East, if not quite as good.

Like Gasol, Bosh is what he is, which is very good, but not very physical.

If Bosh was considered the best big man available last summer, it's only because he's taller than Amare Stoudemire, much less pouty and hasn't been hurt as often.

Of course if he's your best big man, as he is for Miami, you may have a problem up front.

If he's your only good player over 6-8, you have a real problem.

"A lot of people don't understand how difficult it is to make the adjustment to play with two players who dominate the ball," said Wade, one of the players who dominates the ball.

With the Bulls looking elsewhere, Bosh is adjusting quite nicely in this series. So now it's Chicago's turn.

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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