|The Heat could start Chris Bosh during Game 7. (Getty Images)|
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra remained mum on Friday when asked whether All-Star forward Chris Bosh will be in his starting lineup for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics at AmericanAirlines Arena on Saturday.
"I'll give you the [lineup] card [on Saturday]," Spoelstra said.
On Tuesday, Bosh returned to play in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals after being sidelined for three weeks and missing nine games with an abdominal strain. He played 14 minutes off the bench, scoring nine points and grabbing sevens rebounds while shooting 3-for-8.
At shootaround Saturday, Bosh said it "doesn't matter" if he's in the starting lineup for Game 7, intimating that he may not start, thought not confirming or denying either way.
Bosh saw his playing time ramped up during Game 6 on Thursday, as he played 28 minutes off the bench, scoring seven points and grabbing six rebounds while shooting 3-for-8.
"He helped us win [Thursday] night," Spoelstra said. "It's an extreme situation, bringing somebody back in the middle of a very competitive Conference Finals. He's very even-keeled in the mind."
Prior to Game 6, Spoelstra initially did not rule out starting Bosh but later opted to start guards Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade plus forwards LeBron James, Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem. The Heat went on to take Game 6 in Boston 98-79 to even the series at three games apiece.
During the 2011-2012 season, Bosh averaged 35.2 minutes per game. During the postseason, Bosh has averaged 28.1 minutes per game.
Spoelstra has said multiple times that Bosh's minutes in this series require extra management after his extended absence and that he prefers his forward to play in "bursts" rather than in the lengthier stints that he would see in a normal rotation.
"I think we had good communication during the game," Spoelstra said. "He asked to come out twice. It's not a normal rotation where you're slotting, 'Okay, you're going to play this many minutes. You're going to come out and rest this many minutes.' It's on the fly."
Bosh -- who feels he can play with "no limitations" and has said that he feels nothing more than "regular soreness" -- has been open to coming off the bench.
"I just want to play," he said earlier this week. "It doesn't matter to me. I think we feel confident in whoever we put out there. And no matter what the rotation is and what the lineup, we're good enough to get the job done."
Whether he winds up starting or coming off the bench in the series-deciding Game 7, Spoelstra has liked Bosh's impact on both sides of the ball. Bosh gives the Heat a face-the-basket, triple threat option at the high post and has helped space things for LeBron James in particular.
"He's very skilled," he said. "You have to guard him. He's a great shooter from outside, a great passer, he's a multi-dimensional player offensively."
Defensively, Bosh has roamed a bit but also drawn minutes against Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, who has been dominant throughout the series against the likes of Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf. Without Bosh, the Heat were forced to use James to cover Garnett at times, a difficult match-up given Garnett's length. With Bosh, Miami is bigger and longer on defense.
"He's an All-Star player who understands our defense," Spoelstra said. "He's a versatile player. He can guard multiple positions. This series requires that because it's so unconventional both ways. It's both teams playing different lineups. You need somebody with that veteran experience, but also an understanding and ability in our defensive system."