Since returning from his abdominal injury, Chris Bosh projected his typically cooperative and team-first demeanor, expressing not a single word of discontent about coming off the bench.
But before Game 2 of the Heat-Thunder series, Bosh and coach Erik Spoelstra knew, without even verbalizing it, that it was time for him to rejoin the Heat starters.
So when the starters took the floor for Wednesday’s practice, Bosh walked “right out there, put his head under the rim,” Spoelstra said. “That told me what we were doing in terms of starting him.”
Just to be clear, Spoelstra said that even before Bosh showed initiative to take the floor with the starters, “I was leaning that way. And that cemented my decision. I loved it. We didn’t even have to talk about it.”
As expected, Bosh justified the decision, delivering 16 points and 15 rebounds in 40 minutes. His presence helped Miami outrebound the Thunder 40-36 and outscore Oklahoma City 48-32 in the paint.
Starting, Bosh said, is “my comfort zone. Given the nod to start, I just wanted to make sure I played good defense and spaced the floor correctly, and everything would take care of itself.”
Of his decision to take the floor with the other starters at Wednesday’s practice, Bosh said: “It was just one of those things where you know it’s time. We spend a lot of time together, so you could just feel it was time to step up and be where I’m supposed to be and play where I’m supposed to play.
“I have to give credit to my teammates; they really did a good job of adjusting to me coming off the bench when I came in because things were so difficult in the last series and Game 1 of this series.”
Bosh became the first Heat player to produce at least 15 points and 15 rebounds in an NBA Finals game. He had produced double-digit rebounds in just one previous playoff game this spring.
“He was sensational,” Spoelstra said. “We needed every bit of it. He gave us a lot in the paint, and we need that again, again and again.”
The Heat outscored Oklahoma City by 11 with Bosh on the floor, best among Heat players in Game 2.
“It was key, having our best players on the court early, especially when we needed to start out great,” Dwyane Wade said. “Chris came out very aggressive, and that spreads the floor, especially when he’s out there and can shoot it from three. He’s a great shooter, gives us more gaps to get in the paint. We’re glad he’s back playing his regular minutes. That’s going to be key for us the rest of the way.”
The 40 minutes were the most Bosh has played in his five games back from the injury. He played 31 in Game 7 against Boston, 33 in Game 1 against Oklahoma City.
“I tried to put it in my mind that I knew I really had to give the effort that I had been giving before, whether I was ready or not,” he said. Game 2 “was a really good day to see where I was at. Fortunately, things went well for us. And it went well for me individually.”
Afterward, Thunder players bemoaned his impact, with Russell Westbrook noting that Bosh “did a great job of rebounding, helped them out tipping balls, getting extra possessions.”