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Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh calls return from injury his ‘biggest challenge’

Chris Bosh said these have been the craziest six weeks of his life — with the birth of his son Jackson, the abdominal strain that sidelined him nine games, and the race to return for the final three games of the Eastern Conference finals, culminating in a terrific performance in Game 7.

Now Bosh and the Heat get a chance for NBA Finals redemption.

Bosh called his return from injury “the biggest challenge that I ever had in my life, to make sure I stayed ready, so when the time did come, I could contribute instead of trying to get my legs under me and be a non-factor.”

Bosh had 19 points and eight rebounds and made 8 of 10 shots, including three three-pointers, in 31 minutes in Game 7.

“When you play like you don’t know there’s a tomorrow, you can play free,” he said. “That’s what I did.”

As a 6-11 center whose offensive game is often perimeter-based, “I know the stigmas and criticism that are out there,” he said. “I know I can go inside … but LeBron [ James] and Dwyane [ Wade] have it going so well, they need somebody to space the floor.”

Said Celtics guard Keyon Dooling: “Bosh has been a one option all of his career. What a third option to have on your team.”

This and that

• Wade, who scored 106 of his 150 points in the second half of the seven games against the Celtics, took satisfaction in working through frequent double teams to make an imprint on the series. “No matter what everyone on the outside said about me, I’m a winner,” he said. “I’m a team player.”



• James became the first player to record six 30-point games in a postseason series since

Shaquille O’Neal

did it six times in the 2000 Finals against Indiana. He also became only the fourth player on a winning team to produce at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in a Game 6 and 7 of a playoff series, joining O’Neal,

Kobe Bryant

and

Bob Pettit

.



In two meetings, the Thunder held the Heat to 92.5 points (six below Miami’s season average) and 41.6 percent shooting, down from 46.9. “They create a lot of problems in transition, they move the ball well, shoot the ball very well,” Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said Sunday.

What worries Thunder coach Scott Brooks is the Heat “gets their hands on a lot of balls and covers a lot of space quickly.”

• Heat coach

Erik Spoelstra

, who has repeatedly faced questions about his team’s ability to win close games, said: “You could possibly have said that about our team last year. Not this year. No. Everybody feels comfortable what their role is down the stretch, and that’s defensively. But we’ve made great strides offensively in close games.”



• 

Shane Battier

called making an NBA Finals for the first time “almost a surreal feeling. I told my teammates it felt like I have been wandering the NBA wilderness for the last 10 years.”



ESPN’s 9.1 major-market rating for Game 7 was the highest ever for an NBA game on cable. The game was viewed in 25 percent of Miami-Fort Lauderdale homes with TV sets.

• After Game 7, Celtics coach

Doc Rivers

said Spoelstra “does a terrific job. I wish he got more credit for what he does with that group. So classy an organization.”



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