MIAMI, FL - MAY 22: Joakim Noah #13 (L) and Brian Scalabrine #24 of the Chicago Bulls look on dejected from the bench late in the fourth quarter against the Miami Heat in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 22, 2011 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) R:\Merlin\Getty_Photos\GYI0064865853.jpg
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Updated: August 21, 2011 12:21AM
MIAMI — Forget the “Two-and-a-half Men’’ jokes going on hiatus. They have been flat-out canceled.
Chris Bosh made sure of that.
With every head fake, with every 17-foot jumper, with every two-handed slam, the perceived punchline of the Big Three punched back in a 96-85 victory in Game 3 on Sunday, leaving the Bulls still seeking answers on stopping the 6-11 forward. Again.
Unlike in Game 1, when Bosh scored 30 while Dwyane Wade and LeBron James took a back seat in the one-sided loss, Bosh’s latest masterpiece came in the clutch.
He took the Bulls out of their game in the first quarter — yes, that means you, Joakim Noah. Then sent them to the team bus in the fourth quarter, scoring eight consecutive points to answer any last-ditch rally that the Bulls were dreaming about.
Bosh’s final line: 34 points on 13-for-18 shooting. Not in the box score: the belief he cost Noah some paycheck.
With 6:33 left in the first quarter, Noah was called for a foul on Bosh, and immediately went to the bench with two personals.
The TNT cameras then stayed on Noah as he was having a back-and-forth with what appeared to be a Heat fan seated behind the bench — and Noah clearly went all Kobe Bryant, using a homosexual slur toward the fan.
“I got caught up,” Noah said. “A fan said something, I said something back. I apologize.”
Does he expect a fine?
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Noah said.
And that wasn’t even the low point of Noah’s night as he led a cast of characters that Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau threw in the road to try and slow down the Bosh bus.
The result? A whole lot of road kill in red jerseys.
“I just wanted to be aggressive and have a handprint on the series,’’ Bosh said.
That he did. Then again, that’s usually the mark a slap to the face leaves on the opposition.
The Heat have been no strangers to being dissected for their failures throughout the season. Can’t finish, weren’t clutch, too selfish. And the poster boy for the finger-pointing at the start of the playoffs was Bosh.
First by admitting that the moment was too big for him in a Game 3 loss in Boston during the second round, and then the verbal jabs Carlos Boozer had been throwing his way.
Boozer has continually talked about “The Big Two’’ in Wade and James — making it seem as if Bosh was nothing more than an afterthought.
Boozer might want to check the stat sheets because the afterthought is now averaging almost 25 and has 22 rebounds.
“That’s not important,’’ Bosh said of Boozer’s assessment. “I just have to be aggressive every game and all that other noise on the outside, I really don’t care about.’’
And that was the knock on Bosh most of the season.
Playing in Toronto, he could hide. Big fish, little pond. But playing an intricate role in the “Big Three” coming together in South Beach, there was no dark corner to seek cover. Not when Bosh openly didn’t want to join James in Cleveland, and then when “The Decision” did come together, was right there on the stage, dancing alongside James and Wade with the bright lights and loud music.
But once the music stopped, far too often, Bosh’s game didn’t start.
He was the third option to Wade and James, so much so that he complained about it at midseason.
Not on Sunday.
“It was encouraging to see that level of trust,’’ Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They kept wanting the ball to go to him. He is a critical piece of what we want to do. He was able to take pressure off other guys and that helped a lot. It’s taken a while for guys to get comfortable this year, but each night it might be a different guy.”
And as far as Boozer’s comments toward Bosh, Spoelstra had his guy’s back.
“One, [Bosh] doesn’t care,” Spoelstra said. “He just wants to win, he wants to be a part of something special.
“We did our research. He was a high-character guy. He’s been the face of a franchise before, but wanted to be a piece of something big.”
And now that “something big” is becoming quite the problem for a Bulls team that is down 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
“He was terrific right from the start,” Thibodeau said. “Chris Bosh is much more than a third scorer.’’
Someone might want to pass that memo to Boozer.