Chris Bosh Rises to the Occasion in Miami Heat Spotlight

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 31, 2013

With LeBron James and Dwyane Wade sidelined by "injury," Chris Bosh stepped into a starring role, leading the Miami Heat to a stunning 88-86 win over the host San Antonio Spurs on Sunday.

Oh, and he also buried the game-winning three with less than two seconds remaining.

Bosh's star turn came at a critical time for the Heat, who actually risked quite a bit by resting James and Wade. The Heat have long had a stranglehold on the top spot in the East, but coming into the contest against the Spurs, Miami held just a two-game advantage in the race for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

Had the Heat lost, they would have had to fight hard over the season's final nine games in order to assure that a potential NBA Finals matchup against the Spurs would feature four games instead of three in South Beach.

Bosh took care of that with his late-game heroics.

But long before the center's decisive triple, there were signs that he was ready and able to take on a more prominent role on his team:

And as the game stayed close down the stretch, Miami's usual third wheel really got things rolling:

On the night, Bosh finished with 23 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks while shooting 9-of-15 from the floor.

That kind of leadership shouldn't be a surprise to those who remember Bosh as a franchise player in his days as a Toronto Raptor. With little help, he capably assumed the responsibility of being a No. 1 option from the moment he was drafted in 2003.

Don't forget, Bosh averaged more than 22 points per game for five straight years before joining the Heat in the summer of 2010.

Still, there was reason to believe that perhaps the Georgia Tech product had lost some of his alpha-dog edge while playing in the considerable shadows of James and Wade. Maybe he'd gone soft in a role that was relatively pressure-free.

Based on the fiery competitiveness and impressive skill Bosh showed by leading the Heat to victory over a top-tier opponent, it's safe to say he's still got the chops to function as a marquee threat:

Bosh's big night was key for reasons other than its solidification of his status as a player still capable of performing at an elite level, though.

From a team perspective, the Heat now hold a three-game advantage (plus the tie-breaker) over the Spurs for home-court advantage in the playoffs. With that goal nearly sewn up, Miami can rest its stars as much as it wants over the season's final few weeks.

Even though James and Wade probably don't need to take games off down the stretch, Erik Spoelstra now has the luxury of assuring they're as rested and healthy as possible before the postseason begins.

In addition, Miami managed to secure its coveted home-court advantage without having to show the Spurs all of their cards.

San Antonio got a look at the Heat on Nov. 29, but in that matchup, the Spurs infamously rested four of their top players, incurring a massive fine from the league. Though one could argue that San Antonio saw all it needed to see in that meeting, the fact is that the Heat are a vastly different (and better) team now than they were nearly four months ago.

If the Spurs meet the Heat in the Finals, they'll be seeing LeBron and Co. at the height of their powers for the first time.

Perhaps most importantly, Bosh's dagger three caused endless pain to one of the league's most notoriously biased announcers:

That might seem like a small thing in comparison to the massive ramifications Bosh's performance had for his reputation and his team's playoff fate. But from a personal satisfaction standpoint, there's nothing more gratifying than an unhappy homer.