MIAMI (AP) — LeBron James returned to the Miami Heat starting lineup on Saturday night, ending what was a three-game absence because of a strained right hamstring.
James was part of what became the 10th different Heat lineup of the season, with Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller starting at guard, and Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony filling the other frontcourt spots alongside the three-time NBA MVP.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he would keep James’ minutes in some sort of check, not wanting to ask for too much in his first game back after the brief layoff. James got the all-clear after a pregame session where he passed a slew of tests administered by the team’s training staff, with members of the coaching staff watching.
“He’s had a couple good days of workouts and he’s had incredible progress,” Spoelstra said.
Dwyane Wade missed his fourth straight game — and sixth in the past eight — while tending to ankle and knee soreness. Chris Bosh was also held out with a sore right knee, something the Heat said got hyperextended a few days ago.
Wade’s absence has been caused, at least in part, by him getting hit twice in the knee area in recent games, Spoelstra said.
“He has to resolve the swelling right now from getting hit in the knee,” Spoelstra said. “His body will tell us when we play him.”
So while Bosh was added to the injured ranks, the Heat got two players back, with Ray Allen available again after missing Friday’s win in Charlotte because of a sprained ankle.
Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said he expected the absences to have some sort of impact on Miami’s game plan.
“Bosh is the one big that they have that will post and they usually like to start out games going to him, getting him the ball,” Collins said. “And Dwyane Wade has played brilliantly against us all season long.”
After Saturday, the Heat have six regular-season games remaining before they will open the Eastern Conference playoffs at home against the No. 8 seed, quite possibly Milwaukee. The Bucks visit Miami on Tuesday.