The Miami Heat announced shortly before tipoff that All-Star forward Chris Bosh will play during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics at AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday night.
The decision was made after Bosh went through his warm-up routine. Prior to the warm-up, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said that Bosh would not start.
Instead, Miami will start guards Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade and forwards LeBron James, Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem. Haslem enters in place of center Joel Anthony, who started Game 4. Anthony, in turn, replaced center Ronny Turiaf, who started Game 3.
Spoelstra said that Bosh would be used in "short bursts" and that he would play a "small role" and said that Bosh would likely play center. He also worked to downplay expectations.
"He doesn't have to be the Chris Bosh he was seven weeks ago," he said. "We can build up to that. He just has to give us solid minutes and help our rotation get worked out."
Bosh has been sidelined for more than three weeks and has missed Miami's last nine games with a lower abdominal strain that he suffered during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Indiana Pacers.
Earlier Tuesday, Spoelstra said that Bosh would be a game time decision despite a Sunday report indicating that Bosh was expected to play on Tuesday night. On Monday, Spoelstra said that Bosh was "day-to-day" after the team had previously called him "out indefinitely."
"He's looked great the last couple of days," Heat forward LeBron James said. "We got an opportunity to see him. We'll see."
"He's been out for awhile, so whenever he gets on the floor it will take him awhile to get his rhythm back," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said.
During a Monday conference call on Monday, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said that his team would be ready in the event that Bosh does return on Tuesday.
"We don't have to do everything different," he said. "We've prepared every game like Bosh is going to play. Eventually he will and maybe it will be [Tuesday]."After being limited to "rehab-oriented" workouts last week, Bosh has been able to participate in basketball-related activities on multiple occasions this week, according to Spoelstra.
"It was encouraging this past week, he was able to do some more activity on the court," he said. "The last two days he's been able to do real basketball work. We'll evaluate and let you know tonight."
During the regular season, Miami was 42-15 when Bosh played and 4-5 without him. During the postseason, Miami is 5-1 when Bosh played and 5-4 without him.
With Bosh during the playoffs, Miami has averaged 96.5 points and allowed 83.3 points. Without Bosh, Miami has averaged 95.7 points and allowed 91.7 points. Of course, Bosh was available against the No. 7 seed New York Knicks, mostly unavailable against the No. 3 seed Indiana Pacers and has not yet been available against the No. 4 seed Boston Celtics.
A Bosh return will require an adjustment period on both sides of the ball for Miami, as James and Wade have stepped up to do more in his absence.
"What we've done without him is significantly different," Spoelstra said. "No question. We've had to re-invent ourselves."
Spoelstra has maintained over the last week that he is not concerned about the prospect of handling adjustments to Bosh's re-entry into the lineup.
"It it happens, that's a much easier challenge and something we would gladly look forward to, rather than the alternative. It's an easier challenge to assimilate him because of his skill level and where he plays on the court. He helps us space the court, we play through him at the high post. All of those things we've been doing naturally now for two years. Doing that without him was the greater challenge."
"It will be another kind of adjustment," Wade said. "Whenever he comes back we want him to be involved in the offense. We want him to be comfortable. Get his touches. That's coach's job to make sure he calls the right sets to put Chris in a position to succeed."
Bosh, 28, averaged 18.0 points and 7.9 rebounds per game for the Heat this season. He appeared in 57 of Miami's 66 regular-season games.
Bosh is averaging 14.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.0 assists in six postseason appearances.