Bosh will get more playing time in Game 6
MIAMI — Just like the previous four games in the series, Chris Bosh was sitting on the bench Tuesday and watching the action in the fourth quarter. But there was one big difference.
Bosh was wearing warm-ups, not a suit.
The Miami Heat big man, who had returned from injury for Game 5 against Boston in the Eastern Conference finals, didn’t play at all down the stretch of a 94-90 loss. That put the Celtics up 3-2 in the series entering Thursday’s Game 6 at Boston.
After Tuesday’s loss, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said it wouldn’t have been “fair’’ to have inserted Bosh during crunch time after he had missed nine games and more than three weeks because of an abdominal strain. With the Heat on the brink of elimination, what Spoelstra did was hardly a popular choice.
“Those were decisions you have to make as a head coach,’’ Spoelstra said after practice Wednesday. “I know after the fact those can always be second-guessed. But we’re treading in kind of new waters right now, and he had been out quite a while. But he’ll play more (Thursday).’’
You better believe Bosh will. With Miami’s season on the line and possibly Spoelstra’s job as well, there’s no way he’s going to risk again not inserting his top guys to close out a game.
There was some reasoning why Bosh didn’t play in the fourth quarter Tuesday. With Bosh showing some signs of rust, the Heat had been outscored 11-0 when he was in for the final 3:48 of the third quarter, part of a 15-1 Celtics run. And the Heat did open the fourth quarter by outscoring Boston 18-7 to take a 78-72 lead.
But when the game started going back the other way, it was a gamble not giving another shot to Bosh, who had totaled nine points and seven rebounds in the 14 minutes he played. The gamble didn’t work.
“It’s not frustrating at all,” Bosh said Wednesday about not playing in the fourth. “I know everybody really likes to use the word ‘frustration’ in everything involved in this game. When you have the right guys in at the right time, I can’t want everything in my first game back. I feel like I had more to give, but we went with our guys who have been getting the job done the past two series. Hopefully, I’ll be able to contribute a little bit more (Thursday).”
Bosh will. He might even start Game 6, even if Bosh said that doesn’t matter to him.
“I don’t know,’’ Spoelstra said when asked whether Bosh will return to the lineup a game after he came off the bench for the first time since Nov. 23, 2003, his rookie year. “I’m still going through that thought process. But I think he’ll be able to handle a bigger load of minutes, and it will be based more on how he feels during the game.’’
If Bosh is really at “99 percent,’’ the figure he used to describe his health, then obviously bigger minutes from him would help the Heat, who have struggled in the post. Spoelstra has started three different centers the past three games: Ronny Turiaf, Joel Anthony and undersized Udonis Haslem. Meanwhile, Boston center Kevin Garnett has been busy working on his averages in the series, now at 21.6 points and 10.8 rebounds for the five games.
The 6-foot-8, gritty Haslem pulled down 14 rebounds in Game 5 in 33 minutes, and Spoelstra didn’t even use Turiaf and Anthony. Turiaf has a groin strain and is listed as day-to-day.
Spoelstra said there’s a possibility he could go back to 6-11 Bosh and Haslem playing together, a pairing that had some success late in the regular season. Obviously, everything is on the table with the Heat facing elimination.
“It’s going to be better,’’ Bosh said about his second game back after he said his timing was a bit off Tuesday on defense. “I’m fortunate to get one game under my belt before an elimination situation.’’
Considering the situation, don’t expect to see Bosh wearing a suit or warm-ups on the bench late in the game. He’ll be in shorts and on the court.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson