1. Bosh Rediscovers Paint, Makes Lakers Pay
MIAMI -- Chris Bosh's Miami Heat teammates heard all week through the media about his demands for a bigger role in the offense and an opportunity to restore the "power" in his position at power forward.
They didn't have to wait until the start of Thursday night's game against the Los Angeles Lakers to see that Bosh was serious about assuming a take-charge role. He brought his game face to the team's shootaround Thursday morning.
"He went full speed," Spoelstra said of Bosh's pace during what, for everyone else, was essentially a walk-through in preparation for the Lakers. "He was also very demonstrative and vocal to everybody. It almost caught everybody by surprise. It was a great step in leadership on his part."
And it was only an appetizer for what was to come in a much-needed 94-88 victory against the Lakers. The Heat ended their longest losing streak of the season at five games and restored a bit of the swagger, direction and chemistry they had lost amid their toughest stretch of their schedule.
Bosh began the week publicly admitting that he was one of the Heat's players who nearly cried in the locker room after Sunday's demoralizing home loss to the Chicago Bulls. If there was any moisture in his eyes after Thursday's performance, they were tears of joy.
In leading the Heat with 24 points and nine rebounds on 10-of-17 shooting from the field, the embattled Bosh delivered on his promises to be more aggressive, demand the ball and score in the post. Not only did he come through in a major way for the Heat, he did so against arguably the most productive and imposing front lines in the league, anchored by 7-footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
"This was a very big game, and we had everything riding on it," Bosh said when asked if he felt vindicated by his performance. "I put everything I have into it. When it's time to play, the way I know I can play, I just go out there and let it happen. I know I can help this team in a different way. I told [Spoelstra], I wasn't playing around."
Bosh carried his no-nonsense approach from Thursday's shootaround right into the game seven hours later. The same player who spent most of the season settling for jumpers outside of the paint transformed his game Thursday night by attacking the basket and scoring his first four points on a layup on the game's first possession, followed by a baseline dunk.
The same Bosh who too frequently deferred to Wade and James while unashamedly accepting his third-wheel role was Miami's key cog who set the tone and forced his higher-profile teammates to keep up. The same Bosh who was outscored 26-7 in Tuesday's matchup with Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge regrouped to outscore Gasol 24-20 and also grabbed five more rebounds.
Even after picking up two quick fouls in the first quarter, Bosh remained aggressive, made seven of his first 11 shots, scored 16 points and had four rebounds in the first half.
"He did a good job of mixing it up," James said of Bosh's approach against Gasol. "He didn't limit [himself] to out on the perimeter. Those are two of the best forwards we have in this game, and they went head to head. Chris did a great job of being in attack mode. We need that out of him."
The 17 field-goal attempts were the most by Bosh since he took 18 shots and made only one on Feb. 24 at Chicago. The 10 made field goals are the most he's had since he made 11 shots during the Heat's win against the Lakers on Christmas, and the 24 points represent his highest scoring total since he had 25 against Toronto on Feb. 16, which was the Heat's last game before the All-Star break.
In snapping the Lakers' eight-game winning streak and completing the two-game season sweep of the two-time defending NBA champions, the Heat also took a significant step toward reestablishing themselves after struggling against teams with winning records.
Bosh wasn't the only one who reverted to a familiar role in the victory.
Wade, who also had been unhappy with a reduced role late in recent games, was the Heat's closer Thursday. He scored eight of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and also hounded Kobe Bryant into an 8-of-21 shooting performance. Bryant returned to the court after the game and spent nearly 90 minutes working on shots.
And whereas Bosh set the early tone and Wade finished strong, James was the facilitator who quietly flirted with a triple double, finishing with 19 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.
But for much of the game, Bosh was the best player on the court.
Bosh's production was sporadic during the Heat's losing streak, and the seven points he scored against Portland matched his season low. It was immediately after that game on Tuesday when Bosh complained about not getting the ball enough and not being used the way "a big" is supposed to be used.
After Wednesday's practice, Bosh toned down his complaints and placed more blame and responsibility on himself for his recent struggles within the offense. The way Bosh chose to express his frustrations didn't sit particularly well with some of his teammates and coaches.
Those comments placed even more scrutiny on Bosh.
"When you ask for the ball and get it, you have to do something with it, and Chris did it," Wade said. "We know he wants the ball more, and now we've figured out more areas where he can be effective. This lets us know that he's ready, he wants to win and he wants the ball. He's not shying away from it."
Spoelstra's staff had been reviewing film of Bosh's games in Toronto, where he averaged a career-high 24 points and 11 rebounds last season with the Raptors before signing with Miami in free agency. Spoelstra made tweaks Thursday to meet Bosh halfway, but Bosh also made adjustments.
Was Thursday's showing an aberration, or did it establish a new level of expectation for Bosh?
"I take the mentality that I have to prove something every day," Bosh said. "Tomorrow and Saturday, I'm going to prove the same thing. You keep proving yourself, and the next day you do it again. It's just believing in myself and making plays. I can do that with the best of them."
2. Marion Keeps Mavs On Winning End
It's probably not a coincidence that the Dallas Mavericks played perhaps their most dominant half of the season less than 24 hours after coach Rick Carlisle called his team the most offensive four-letter word in the NBA.
There certainly wasn't anything "soft" about the Mavs' performance in the first two quarters, when they set a season high for points in a half (72), kicked the New York Knicks' butts on the boards (25-14) and played suffocating defense (34.2 field-goal percentage allowed) while roaring to a 21-point lead.
Folks who have watched the Mavs all season weren't surprised that the Knicks managed to make it somewhat interesting, but at least the Mavs never let their lead get in jeopardy. Amare Stoudemire scored 24 of his 36 points in the second half, but New York never got closer than 11 points.
Nobody deserves more credit for displaying guts and grit than Shawn Marion, who played an awesome all-around game a night after taking a ribs-hurting tumble into a cameraman, courtesy of a flagrant foul by New Orleans' Marco Bellineli. Marion had 22 points (10-of-15 shooting) and eight rebounds in 29 minutes and helped harass Carmelo Anthony into an off night (18 points on 5-of-15 shooting).
Marion was one of three Mavs who scored more than 20 points, joining Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry as they continued a trend of beautiful offensive basketball that was interrupted by a rough road trip.
3. Daily Dime Live
Zach Harper, TrueHoop bloggers, ESPN.com's NBA crew and DDL regulars hold forth and give their in-game opinions on all topics throughout Thursday's slate in Daily Dime Live.
4. Extreme Behavior
Chris Bosh, Heat: Who is this guy? A warrior in the paint was just what the doctor ordered. Bosh goes 10-for-17 against the Lakers' tall timber, netting 24 points and reviving the Heat.
Vince Carter, Suns: Last game, he scorched the Rockets. This time, it was VC's chance to be scorched. He missed nine of 11 shots in the 116-97 loss to Denver that saw Steve Nash turn it over six times.
TWEET OF THE NIGHT
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"Their basketball is very much in standing with Xbox games, or whatever those games are when you play one-on-one."
-- Lakers coach Phil Jackson, sizing up the Heat's approach before his team lost in Miami.
5. NBA Video Channel
6. Frustration For Kobe
MIAMI -- More than an hour after the final buzzer sounded in the Los Angeles Lakers' 94-88 loss to the Miami Heat on Thursday, Kobe Bryant was back on the American Airlines Arena court going through a nearly hour-long shooting routine as three Heat ball boys rebounded shot after shot.
It might have helped him work off the frustration of what he claimed was a missed foul call late in the game.
"[Dwyane] Wade fouled the s--- out of me," Bryant said with his feet dipped in a bucket of ice water after the game. Bryant was referring to the 3-pointer he attempted with 1:06 left and the Lakers down 90-88.
"It was clearly evident," Bryant said. "They missed it. ... He fouled the hell out of me, they just missed it."
Wade was credited with a block.
"I couldn't make that, he hit my whole arm," said Bryant, who had made his previous two 3-point attempts at the time, including a long 28-footer to tie the score at 88. "That's why I went so short. ... I should have been shooting three free throws."
Bryant said even Wade assumed he would hear a whistle after the play.
"He was surprised they didn't call a foul," Bryant said. "He came out and said, 'I fouled the s--- out of you!'"
Wade said after the game that he didn't foul Bryant.
7. Taking It To Lakers Bigs
Chris Bosh scored 24 points to lead the Miami Heat to a 94-88 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Bosh's 24 points are the most by an opposing forward or center in a non-overtime game in which the Lakers' big men, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, both played more than 30 minutes. (Bynum played 37 minutes and Gasol 40 in Thursday's game.) LaMarcus Aldridge scored 29 points against the Lakers in an overtime game in which Bynum and Gasol each played more than 30 minutes last month.