Bosh a 'game-time decision' for Game 5
MIAMI — Often regarded as an afterthought on a star-studded team, Chris Bosh is suddenly being looked at by many as the guy who can rescue Miami's season.
The Heat, though, aren't seeing it that way.
"We're not putting on Chris coming to save the day," Heat star Dwyane Wade said after Tuesday morning's shootaround on the strong possibility Bosh will return for the evening playoff game against Boston. "We're a unit. We've been together, so it's got to be all of us."
Bosh, the big man who hasn't played since May 13 due to an abdominal strain, was upgraded by the Heat to be a game-time decision for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Boston at AmericanAirlines Arena. After winning the first two games of the series, the Heat have dropped the past two to fall into a 2-2 tie.
If Bosh plays, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he won't start. Instead, he would come off the bench and play in "short bursts" to make his return gradual.
If Bosh returns, it should be a big boost for the Heat, who are weak in the post. But his teammates realize it might not be immediate that Bosh is back in the groove.
"It will be great to have him back, but you never know what type of rhythm he's going to be in," said LeBron James, Miami's other top star.
Still, James would consider it a huge positive if Bosh is back for Game 5. He said Bosh would help the Heat with his rebounding, his ability to spread the floor on offense, and by being able to cover a lot of ground on defense.
"If he comes back tonight, he can get the crowd (going) as well," James said. "They'll be excited to see him back."
Bosh has missed nine games due to his injury, with the Heat going 5-4. He was involved in private workouts last week and in team sessions while Miami was in Boston last weekend for Games 3 and 4. Bosh went through shootaround Tuesday morning.
"There will continue to be constant communication," said Spoelstra, who had said there were to be talks leading up to tipoff with Bosh, Heat officials and medical personnel about whether the big man will play. "It was encouraging this past week (how Bosh has looked in workouts)."
Still, the Heat know it sometimes takes time for a player to blend in after he's missed more than three weeks.
"He looks comfortable in what we've been able to do," James said of the work Bosh has done lately with the team. "But I think we all know that a shootaround or a walk-through practice is totally different from what we've been doing out on the floor as far as game time."
Nevertheless, Spoelstra is not worried too much about an adjustment period if Bosh is able to return for Game 5.
"If it happens, that's a much easier challenge and something we would gladly look forward to rather than the alternative (of continuing to not have Bosh)," Spoelstra said.
Without Bosh, the Heat have had big troubles containing Boston big man Kevin Garnett. He's averaging 20.5 points and 10.8 rebounds in the series.
Boston coach Doc Rivers said his team is prepared to play if Bosh is back or if he isn't. So what are the challenges if he does indeed return?
"We definitely have to be aware," said Celtics forward Paul Pierce. "He's another big scoring threat for them, a guy who can really put up some big numbers on any given night. He stretches the floor with his shooting and he can drive the ball. It's definitely somebody we got to be aware of."
Pierce sure made Bosh sound like a guy who could save the day.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson.