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Heat staying silent on starting lineup for Finals Game 1 vs. Thunder

By Ben Golliver | Blogger
The Heat won't commit to starting Chris Bosh in The Finals. (Getty Images)
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Chris Bosh: back to the starting lineup or super sub? It's still unclear.

At practice on Monday, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra would not reveal his starting lineup for Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder, set for Tuesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

"I'll give you the lineup [Tuesday] night," Spoelstra said.

The big question is whether Bosh, Miami's All-Star forward, will re-enter the Heat's starting lineup for the first time in nearly a month. Bosh left Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Indiana Pacers on May 13 with a lower abdomen strain, an injury that sidelined him for three weeks and caused him to miss nine games. He returned in limited minutes off the bench for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics. He was used as a reserve in Game 6 and Game 7, although he did see his playing time increase.

"I'll consider everything by [Tuesday] night," Spoelstra said. "I think he can handle more minutes. We'll have to see. He was able to handle the 31 minutes [in Game 7]. He had to come out a couple times because of wind, but I think each game we'll get better."

The Heat started guards Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade plus forwards LeBron James, Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem after Bosh's return. That was Miami's sixth starting lineup of the 2012 postseason.

During all five games against the New York Knicks in the first round, Miami started Chalmers, Wade, James, Bosh and Haslem. The Heat used the same lineup in Game 1 against the Pacers. In Game 2 against the Pacers, Miami went with Turiaf, James, Wade, Haslem and Chalmers. In Game 3 against the Pacers, Miami started James, Wade, Chalmers, Battier and center Dexter Pittman. In Games 4, 5 and 6 against the Pacers and Games 1, 2 and 3 against the Celtics, Miami started James, Wade, Chalmers, Battier and Turiaf. In Game 4 vs. the Celtics, Miami started James, Wade, Chalmers, Battier and center Joel Anthony.

Bosh joked after the Game 7 victory that he was "99.2 percent" healthy and has said previously that he feels like he can play with "no limitations." At the same time, he's said that he's fine playing as a starter or as a reserve.

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"I just want to play," he said last 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."

In an unexpected twist following Game 7 against the Celtics, James stressed Bosh's value in a reserve role and seemed to indicate that Bosh might be used in a reserve role.

"It's huge," James said of Bosh's impact off the bench in Game 7 against the Celtics. "It's something we haven't had. We haven't had that type of activity, that firepower off the bench since we got here. It's unique. It's very unique that CB is coming off the bench, but it may be something great for us."

Indeed, Miami's bench -- aside from Bosh -- has had little to no impact during the playoffs. The Thunder, meanwhile, have the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year, James Harden, plus veterans Derek Fisher and Nick Collison.

James mentioned Harden by name when asked to elaborate on Bosh's impact off the bench after Game 7.

"We've played some good ball," he said. "It doesn't matter who starts or who finishes the game. James Harden doesn't start, but he's always on the court at the end of the game. Jason Terry doesn't start, but last year in The Finals he was in the fourth quarter every game. CB didn't start tonight, but he was in the fourth quarter. It doesn't matter who starts, or finishes the game, it's who is being productive. That's what it all boils down to."

Spoelstra refused to offer any additional details when prodded briefly about James' comments on Monday.

"I consider everything," he repeated. "We had to make a lot of adjustments when Chris went out. We had to make some adjustments when he came back in. That's all part of it. It's survival in the playoffs. There's no excuses. We've had to re-invent ourselves in the process, and we think we've improved during that reinvention."

The Thunder have used just one starting lineup during the playoffs: guards Russell Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha, forwards Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka, and center Kendrick Perkins.
 
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