Miami’s depth making a difference as stars deal with injuries

Reserve guard Ray Allen has played a crucial role in helping the Heat maintain success despite injuries to their stars.

Isaiah J. Downing/Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Spor

MIAMI — Roster depth has been the Miami Heat’s greatest quality through the season’s first two months.

"Yeah, by far," Chris Bosh said following Wednesday’s afternoon practice. "We’re able to have guys out and have everything keep going.

"The other day against Sacramento, we felt we should have won a game (despite) three important guys out. It was tough, but we still expect to win."

The Heat returned to work New Year’s Day after a 3-1 road trip during which the team relied greatly on its depth as various players suffered injuries.

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Udonis Haslem, who had been deep on Erik Spoelstra’s bench, played in the final three games after reserve forward Chris Andersen hurt his back in a Christmas Day victory against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Dwyane Wade (resting his knees), Ray Allen (right knee tendinitis) and Andersen (back) missed a loss at Sacramento on Friday night, when LeBron James strained his right groin.

James sat out the next night, when Bosh’s 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left gave the Heat a win at Portland.

Wade (back spasms) and backup point guard Norris Cole missed most of the second half in Monday night’s win at Denver. Cole hit the ground hard when fouled driving to the lane and was forced to sit after Joel Anthony sank his two free throws.

Back at their AmericanAirlines Arena practice court, Spoelstra said Wade was the only Miami player sidelined for Wednesday’s workout.

"Dwyane’s still a little bit stiff, so we sat him out," Spoelstra said. "But everybody else was able to do something in practice."

Whether it was Haslem for Andersen, little-used Roger Mason Jr. stepping in for Wade and Cole on Monday, or the important contributions of such bench players as Ray Allen and Michael Beasley, the Heat showed the mettle of champions on the trip.

"Particularly on the road, you have to have that mental toughness, the resolve to be able to fight through things that you can’t control," Spoelstra said, "whether it be an injury, a (ref’s) call … whether the other team goes on an 8-0 run … you have to be able to manage all those emotions and focus on executing and doing it under duress."

James, who turned 29 on Monday, celebrated by scoring 26 points against the Nuggets. He was expected to start when the Heat play host to Golden State on Thursday night.

"When guys are out, we have guys who have the ability to step up," James said Wednesday. "It helps to have that depth on our team that we can afford, for a short time, for guys to be out.

"We’ve been through so many battle, we’ve been through so many obstacles, ups and downs whatever the case maybe, that we’re able to handle any circumstance, any situation that comes upon us."

Miami’s victory at Portland was a good example. With the Heat trailing by two and a bespectacled LeBron watching from the bench, Bosh convinced Spoelstra to set up a 3-point try instead of a potentially game-tying drive to the hoop.

Bosh sank the shot, then turned and screamed before giving LeBron a chest bump.

Told his reaction seemed to send the message, "I can handle this," Bosh said: "You would be correct.

"I just tried to fill a void," he explained. "Knowing that LeBron was out we had a void offensively and defensively."

Players adjusting to their roles and stepping up when called upon is the main reason Miami is 24-7, 1 1/2 games behind Indiana in the race for home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Spoelstra downplayed his coaching this season, despite the injuries and having to handle a a deep bench.

"That’s my job," Spoelstra said, "to manage who’s in, who’s out and get us playing at a high level."

You can follow Charlie McCarthy on Twitter @mccarthy_chas or email him at mac1763@bellsouth.net.