It doesn't seem like there'd be a lot of room for improvement for a player who's led his team in scoring and rebounding in three consecutive All-Star seasons. With his play in 2008-09, however, Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh is proving otherwise.After falling one point shy of his third 40-point game in a little more than a week, Bosh looks to continue his emergence as one of the best big men in the NBA on Friday night when the Raptors host the Atlanta Hawks.
Bosh has been the Raptors' anchor over the last three seasons, averaging at least 22.0 points and 8.7 rebounds while shooting around 50.0 percent from the field and 80.0 percent from the free-throw line in each campaign.
Though his consistency may have led some to believe that the sixth-year forward had reached his ceiling, Bosh has taken his game to another level this season. He's averaging a career-high 27.6 points and 10.5 rebounds while shooting a career-best 55.6 percent from the field and 82.6 percent from the line.
The 6-foot-10 Georgia Tech product has been especially effective lately. On Wednesday night, he was one point shy of his third 40-point game since Nov. 18, finishing with 11 rebounds and going 15-for-20 from the field and 9-for-10 from the line as Toronto (7-7) beat Charlotte 93-86.
"He controlled the game offensively and defensively," Bobcats forward Jared Dudley said. "You see why he's one of the best power forwards in the game. It's really hard to guard him. He gets to the free-throw line, his jump shot is much improved."
Bosh made his first eight shots from the field and started 6-for-6 from the line. He didn't miss a shot until there was 4:25 left in the second quarter, when his baseline jumper with the shot clock winding down bounced off the rim.
"He gets better and better," Bobcats coach Larry Brown said. "He's posting up better, he's putting it on the floor better. Before, you didn't know whether he was a 4 or a 3. Now he's just a great basketball player."
Bosh's assessment wasn't quite as glowing, but he's clearly comfortable with the way he's played so far this season.
"I'm just figuring a couple of things out," Bosh said. "I'm trying to have a little bit of confidence in myself, of course, and every night I'm trying to bring it to the table."
He'll try to do that Friday when matched up against another potential star big man in Atlanta's Al Horford. The second-year forward had 21 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots to lead the Hawks (9-5) to a 102-96 win over Milwaukee on Wednesday night.
Joe Johnson, seventh in the league in scoring with 23.4 points per game, was held to 15 - fifth-most on the team - against the Bucks. He was still integral to Atlanta's offense, though, notching a season-high nine assists - something Horford called a sign of growth for the Hawks.
"That says a lot about this team," he said.
Bosh got the better of Horford and the rest of the Hawks' frontcourt in the teams' first meeting this season, scoring 26 points with eight rebounds. Atlanta, however, had five players in double figures in its 110-92 home victory.
Both teams would likely benefit from the return of one of their star players for this game. Toronto's Jermaine O'Neal sat out Wednesday with knee and ankle injuries, while Atlanta's Josh Smith has been sidelined for 10 straight games with a sprained ankle. Both could practice Thursday, but their status for Friday is uncertain.