Posted Jun 5 2012 1:17AM
MIAMI -- If he's fit to play, then play he must.
It's not the ideal situation for the Heat. In a best-case scenario, they would be in position to rest him as long as possible, even more the necessary. Just to make sure. But the Eastern Conference finals aren't so sure anymore for the Heat, not after assuming a 2-0 lead only to watch it vanish during a nightmare trip to Boston.
So it's time to see if Chris Bosh can stomach this series.
He hasn't played since bending over in pain back on May 13, halfway through the first game of the previous round against the Pacers. A strained abdominal muscle is a very tricky injury. It can take weeks, even months, to heal properly, depending on the degree and severity of the strain. The victim could feel fine one day then experience soreness the next. Rush back from that and you risk doing further damage.
The Heat didn't need Bosh against the Pacers, and even against the Celtics, they've managed to compensate well -- to a point. You figured that the Celtics wouldn't roll the dice and Bosh wouldn't return unless Miami faced an elimination game, because then, what would they have to lose by turning to Bosh, if only to be a decoy?
But with Kevin Garnett having his way inside the paint, and Miami running out of options with a limited (in more ways than one) supply of big men, and the Heat not willing to fall behind after Game 5 on Tuesday in Miami (with the series returning to Boston on Thursday), it's time.
If Bosh is healthy enough. If he can do a sit-up without frowning, he'd be better than Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf, don't you think?
The conversation Tuesday just prior to Game 5 between coach Erik Spoelstra and Bosh might go something like this:
Spo: "How you doing?"
Bosh: "Not too bad. I think I -- "
Spo: "Good. You're starting."
The need for Bosh changed once Celtics coach Doc Rivers told Rajon Rondo to zero in on Garnett and instructed Garnett to ditch the elbow jumper for layups.
"He's the tallest player on the floor," said Rivers. "Just throw it up there and let him catch it."
Spoelstra had enough of Turiaf giving nothing as a starter and benched him completely, going with Anthony and Udonis Haslem, who grabbed 17 rebounds Sunday. Still, Haslem is undersized and Anthony not savvy enough to deal with Garnett. Also, because neither player brings much offensively, a smart defender like Garnett can simply cheat and concentrate his energy toward providing help defense on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade by shutting off the alleys when they drive.
It's a respect factor, and the Celtics are showing none for the players trying to compensate for Bosh.
Clearly, James and Wade are laboring to score enough points, which is tough to do against Boston even with Bosh. The need for them to combine for at least 50 points is great, and while that worked against an Indiana team too young to figure it out, the Celtics are rarely caught by surprise. Besides, their defensive players range from good to great, with Garnett and Rajon Rondo leading the way.
Bosh isn't going to help beat the Celtics just by putting on a uniform and standing around. Being a decoy is one thing, being a statue another. He'll have to play, and at a fairly high level at that. Which means, if he ventures on the floor and isn't completely healthy, it won't work.
If he is fit enough to last an entire game, then he changes the series. Because then the Celtics must respect him on offense, even if he's rusty. They can't freely double on Wade and James, especially on the screen and roll that involves Bosh. Unlike Anthony and Turiaf (and to an extent, Haslem), Bosh is dangerous when he rolls to the rim.
Rust and timing could be an obvious issue with Bosh after 21 days of inactivity. He traveled on the Boston trip and worked out with the team between games, but hasn't gone through a scrimmage or simulated game session. Nothing intense. Still, his presence would be an upgrade, if only because Boston would need to change the way it has played defense the first four games. The Celtics would need to account for Bosh both on offense and rebounding.
Also, with Bosh, maybe Miami doesn't wait until the second half to show up, as the Heat did twice in Boston.
"We've got to come out with a sense of urgency," said James. "The last two games, we've come in and they hit us hard. We can't wait until we get down, then make a push."
The decision on whether to play Bosh likely won't be made until tipoff Tuesday, because that's Spoelstra's way. Yet if Bosh is healthy enough, there is no decision. The series is tied. Miami just lost twice in a row. It's time.
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