Charlotte Hornets

Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh must catch fire to help title quest

The book on Chris Bosh is he’s more of a spot-up shooter than a frontcourt giant, and for the season’s first 61 games, he was an elite one.

Simply put, Bosh was on fire. He made 54 percent of his field goals and a remarkable 39 percent of his three-point attempts. Both would have been career highs had they continued.

Then came the Heat’s home loss to Denver on March 14, and Bosh’s mojo evaporated. He missed 8 of his 12 shots that night. And he really hasn’t found his range since.

In his final 18 games of the season, Bosh has misfired on 55 percent of his attempts from the field, bricking more than three of four from long range.

Not coincidentally, the Heat won just 10 of those 18 games.

Neither will be good enough for Miami to capture its third consecutive NBA title, a playoff quest that begins at home Sunday against the Charlotte Bobcats.

“Law of averages and man, that was a hell of month,” Bosh said, explaining his springtime slump. “March and April, [the schedule] was just relentless. It was every other day, back-to-backs, not having much rest not much time to practice. That affects your game.”

Added Heat coach Erik Spoelstra: “I’m not concerned about that. I’m really not. Our offense, once we get everybody together and we understand where we’re going and playing off each other, I think the guys will be taking the right kind of shots. The ball will go where it needs to go.

“He was in an incredible groove before that,” Spoelstra added. “A couple nights off, I think that will help him also from a mental standpoint.”

Bosh got rest late in the season. It’s a full eight days between his final regular-season game and the playoff opener. Bosh has used that time to rediscover his rhythm.

He will need it against the Bobcats, who are making just their second playoff appearance. Charlotte is powered by stud center Al Jefferson, who averaged nearly 21 points and 11 rebounds this season.

Bosh needs to keep doing what he did in the regular season. In four meetings with the Bobcats – all Miami victories – Bosh averaged 17.3 points on a smoking 57.4 percent shooting.

“You can’t mimic the intensity until you hit the ground running and you see playoffs on the floor,” Bosh said. “You know what time it is.”

Despite his late struggles, Bosh still shot 51.6 percent from the field this year – third-best in his career – while heaving up 218 three-pointers. That figure is not only the most of his career; it’s just 84 attempts fewer than he had in his first 10 pro seasons combined.

Bosh, the second-tallest player on the roster, took 23 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.

“Evolution is a good word for me,” Bosh said. “I’m a different player than where I was last year and the year before that and the year before that. I’m still trying to continue to get better. I just want to be able to attack from all areas of the court.”

That evolution has come with a cost, however. Since he set up farther than ever from the rim, Bosh corralled just 94 offensive rebounds this year – second-fewest in his career. The only time he had fewer was in 2011-12, the strike-shortened year in which he appeared in 57 games.

Furthermore, Bosh’s scoring has declined in each of the past four seasons, from a career-high 24 points per game in his final season in Toronto to 16.2 this year – his lowest average since his rookie campaign.

No doubt, his limited minutes have played a part. He averaged only 32 minutes per game this season, an 11 percent decline from his first season in Miami. However, his points-per-36 minutes have been right around 18 for his entire Heat tenure.

If Bosh truly wants to evolve, however, he will have to do it in the playoffs. He averaged just 12.1 points per game during the Heat’s 2013 run and was held scoreless in Game 7 of the Finals.

“It never gets easier, that’s for sure,” he said. “We have a huge mountain to climb in front of us, but I think everybody here is up to the challenge.”

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