It doesn’t happen often; it can’t happen often. Not when the real thing already is in place.
But Saturday night, that wasn’t the case. LeBron James couldn’t be LeBron James because of an aching right groin that kept him out of the lineup.
So Chris Bosh stepped into the role, strangely comfortable as a leader on a team where he rarely is asked to lead.
Genial by nature, deferential to his detriment at times, the lanky center was neither at Saturday night’s moment of truth in the Miami Heat’s 108-107 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Just as James had earlier in the week during a make-or-break timeout in a home victory against the Atlanta Hawks, Bosh took exception to a play being drawn up during a timeout with the Miami Heat down two with 7.7 seconds to play at the Moda Center.
On Monday night, because he’s LeBron James and because that gives him ultimate veto power, James had coach Erik Spoelstra re-write a play during a late timeout, James seeing the possibility for Ray Allen to force the game into overtime down three. Spoelstra acquiesced. Allen was fouled during a 3-point attempt, made all three free throws, with the Heat winning in the absence of guard Dwyane Wade.
This time it was Bosh who had ideas counter to Spoelstra’s diagramming. So he spoke up, questioning the logic for a long two-point shot when the Blazers then would be in control of whatever time remained on the clock. The Heat were playing on the second night of a back-to-back set, coming off Friday’s overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings.
“In that situation,” Bosh said, “I wanted to go for the win.”
He already was 2-of-2 on 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, already had a season-high 34 points. Already had the ear of his coach, just as James did five nights earlier.
Off the timeout, Wade appeared to have other ideas, attacking the paint just as he had moments earlier for a go-ahead dunk. This time, though, he drew two defenders, actually got himself in a bad spot. So he blindly tossed the ball behind his back to the spot where Bosh had discussed spotting up.
This was not a great pass, was well off the mark. That left Bosh well behind the 3-point line. But this was the shot he wanted. He delivered with five-tenths of a second to play. After a point-blank miss by LaMarcus Aldridge on the other end, it was over.
Bosh was mobbed by teammates. James slung his sports coat over Bosh’s shoulders, as if it was a cape. After 37 points, 10 rebounds and a stand-his-ground moment during that crucial timeout, Bosh was savoring his LeBron-like moment.