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Turns out Chris Bosh is pretty important this season

Mar 5, 2012, 4:19 AM EDT

Chris Bosh LeBron James AP

Chris Bosh was once one of the best players in the league. We’re learning that this designation moves faster now. Due to the extensive nature of talent in this league, players are constantly rising and falling to the top tiers. In 2010, he was considered one of the best players in the NBA. Last year, the bottom fell out. Someone was going to fall to the bottom of the Big 3, and Bosh wound up as it. He was considered rattled, soft, and the whole crying thing after the Finals didn’t look good either. (Never mind that if other players had done it they would be complimented for how much they cared.)

But we’re seeing bits of that player that was considered so elite before “The Decision.” And no more definitive an example of that exists than Sunday’s game against the Lakers.

There will be claims that Bosh’s absence due to personal reasons for the second game lead to the ability for Andrew Bynum to relentlessly pour in points and putbacks at the rim. That’s not really true. The Heat actually won the rebounding battle. Bosh wouldn’t have added toughness down low, wouldn’t have negated the advantage of having Pau Gasol and Bynum roaming the paint at both ends.

But what Bosh serves as is the superior drop-off option. Twice late in Sunday’s game against the Lakers, LeBron James drove to the rim and faced a double-team before dishing a whip-around pass to a teammate. Unfortunately, it was Juwan Howard and Joel Anthony catching the passes. Both times the ball was stripped, the Lakers recovered, and, well, you know. Kobe Kobe Kobe, all day long.

Even beyond the Lakers game, that missed jumper from Udonis Haslem that got LeBron in such hot water for (gasp) passing to an open man? That would have been Bosh taking that shot. Which, by the way, he’s 6 for 9 in those clutch situations this year.

Bosh wouldn’t have changed the outcome of Sunday’s game. Metta World Peace was draining turnaround jumpers for crying out loud. Kobe Bryant played an efficient game and when that happens the Lakers are pretty unstoppable. With Dwyane Wade completely failing, there is no doubt the Lakers would have won that game. But the bigger scheme makes it clear that the Heat legitimately depend on Bosh. This doesn’t mean he’s more important than LeBron James or Dwyane Wade. He’s not. But he is pivotal to their success, which they’ve had a lot of this season.

After so much grief the past year and a half, all of a sudden, and very much under the radar, Chris Bosh is showing himself to be a legitimate member of the Big 3. His absence on Sunday was completely understandable. It was also noticeable beyond the revenge game from Kobe and Metta Madness. Bosh is no longer just decoration. He’s necessary for the Heat to win a title.

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