By Shandel Richardson, Sun Sentinel –
MIAMI — Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is still debating whether to start forward Chris Bosh Thursday against the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Bosh returned to the lineup for the first time in Tuesday’s Game 5, scoring nine points and grabbing seven rebounds. He had missed the previous nine postseason games because of a strained lower abdominal muscle.
“I’m still going through that thought process,” Spoelstra said. “I think he’ll be able to handle to a bigger load of minutes, and it will be based on how he feels throughout the game.”
Bosh said he is comfortable returning to his starting role or coming off the bench. He referred to himself as 99 percent healthy, saying he was fortunate to get one game under his belt before facing an elimination situation.
The Celtics hold a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“I just want to play,” Bosh said. “It doesn’t matter to me. I think we feel confident in whoever we put out there. … We’re good enough to get the job done.”
Bosh played 14 minutes Tuesday, but only a stretch of 3 minutes, 48 seconds in the second half. Spoelstra said he felt it was unfair to expect Bosh to play in such a crucial stage in the game.
Bosh said he understood the decision but should play a bigger role Thursday.
“It’s not frustrating at all,” Bosh said.
“I know everybody really likes to use the word ‘frustration’ in everything involved in this game. When you have the right guys in at the right time, I can’t want everything in my first game back. I feel like I had more to give, but we went with our guys who have been getting the job done the past two series. Hopefully, I’ll be able to contribute a little bit more.”
Spoelstra would not say how much he figured to play Bosh. The Heat know they are different team when he is healthy. After defeating the New York Knicks 4-1 in the first round, they went just 5-4 in Bosh’s absence.
“We’re going to have to have him out on the court,” forward LeBron James said.
“I think he played great in his minutes that he had last night. Fourteen minutes, nine (points) and seven (rebounds), that’s some really good production. So the fact that we’re whole finally for a game that means a lot to us all and should help us.”
Bosh said he played evenly on both sides of the ball in his first game back, but at times looked a step slow defensively. He was beaten off the dribble by Celtics forward Brandon Bass a couple times.
“My timing is off a little bit,” Bosh said.
“I made some mistakes that I can definitely put in the back of my mind for (Thursday). For the most part, I was just trying to stay alert and be in the right spots. I’ll improve for Game 6 and make sure that I don’t give up some points like I did because they’re crucial.”
EMOTIONAL LIFT FROM JUWAN
With a team featuring James and Dwyane Wade, the Heat received a motivational lift from an unlikely source following the Game 5 loss.
Veteran Juwan Howard was among those to address the team after the defeat. Forward Udonis Haslem said Howard referred to the Detroit Pistons rallying from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Orlando Magic in the 2003 playoffs.
“He just let everybody know to relax and get ready for the next one,” Haslem said. “He’s just brought up the situation when (Tracy McGrady) was in Orlando and Detroit came back to win the whole series. We’re not down 3-1. With that being said, we’re just going to relax and get ready.”
JOEL SITS; TURIAF AILING
Spoelstra explained the reasoning for centers Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf not playing in Game 5. Anthony sat for “situational” reasons while Turiaf is nursing a strained right groin.
Turiaf’s status is day-to-day.