Up until the very end, Erik Spoelstra played coy when it came to whether Chris Bosh would play Tuesday.
Boston’s Doc Rivers wasn’t buying what the Heat coach was selling.
“It just gives them another weapon,” Rivers said before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. “He’ll play. … We’re ready either way, honestly. We don’t care one way or the other. He’s going to play in the game. And if he doesn’t play, he doesn’t play. Either way, we have to be ready to play the Miami Heat, not worry about who is on the floor.”
Bosh came into a standing ovation on Tuesday night, subbing for Udonis Haslem with 5:06 left in the first quarter of the Heat’s 94-90 loss to Boston. Bosh, who had been out since May 13 with an abdominal strain, looked like he was still trying to find his game legs although, as Rivers said, he was a nice additional weapon for the Heat.
Spoelstra didn’t officially announce Bosh was back in the lineup until turning in his game sheet. As expected, Bosh played — but didn’t start an NBA game for the first time since he was a rookie with the Raptors in 2003.
Bosh had nine points off 3-of-8 shooting with seven rebounds despite limited second-half minutes.
Haslem was in the starting lineup for the first time this series.
“[Bosh] is going to help us a lot spread the floor,” LeBron James said Tuesday afternoon. “He’s another big that spreads the floor and rebounds as well. He can cover a lot of ground defensively as well. It’d be great to have him back, but you never know what kind of rhythm he’s going to be in. But the great thing about it is if he comes back [Tuesday night], then he can use the crowd as well. They’ll be happy to see him back in uniform as well.”
There was plenty of speculation Bosh would return to the Heat, because he traveled to Boston with the team last week and was working out. Spoelstra continued to preach Bosh was a “game-time decision” and said in his pregame news conference that there was no guarantee Bosh would play.
“If we determine he’s not ready to go, that’s not a setback,” Spoelstra said. “It just means another day of work and possibly he will be ready for the next game. We will continue to reevaluate from there.”
Bosh ended up playing some quality minutes, although the Heat is obviously managing Bosh’s time on the floor as he returns from an injury that, if not properly healed, could turn out being worse than it was.
Bosh played a little more than most anticipated, his 14:23 on the court second among all reserves — yet much less than any of the five starters. Bosh got all of his playing time in the opening three quarters as he didn’t see the floor in the fourth.
Bosh had five points in the opening quarter and nine in the half, grabbing six rebounds — five on the offensive side — along the way.
“He’s been out for a while, so whenever he gets into the flow it’s going to take him a while to get his rhythm back,” Dwyane Wade said before Tuesday’s game. “But he’s another key component to his team. Obviously, whenever he comes back, you want him to be involved in the offense but you want him to get his touches and get comfortable.”