Here's what some of the pundits were saying Wednesday about the Heat:
### TNT’s Charles Barkley, who predicted the Heat will win the next two to take the series, delivered this message on national television Wednesday night: “LeBron James, I love watching you play. It’s time you do your thing. I’ve been telling people - they don’t believe me; they’re living in the past - it’s your team. You are the best basketball player in the world. It’s time for you to say, ‘Hey guys. Get on my back. We’re going to win Game 6. We’re going to win Game 7.’ Don’t defer to anybody. You are the best. Quit listening to all this [garbage] you hear from all these reporters. You are the man.”
### TNT’s Kenny Smith then cracked: “Is this some public service announcement? Forget about LeBron. When I look at the Heat, everyone says they’re choking. No, they are not choking. This is not choking basketball. They don’t have enough diversity in their offense. When Shaq and I said the Celtics would win in six games, there is a reason for that. What I see from the Celtics is diverse offensive and defensive schemes. LeBron and Dwyane Wade play great, but they don’t need each other. They play off of Chris Bosh better than they play off of each other.”
### ESPN’s Magic Johnson, reaching into his cliché bag, said: “My problem with Miami is they don’t have a will to win. Boston is stronger mentally, executes better and has Doc Rivers. He confused the Heat by switching defenses.”
### Shaq, on the Heat’s supporting cast: “Those other guys on Miami - you’all do know you get a paycheck, right? Feel free not to back up to the window with a blindfold on.”
### ESPN’s Jon Barry, on the Heat: “They’re front-runners. They point fingers at each other when things don’t go well. LeBron and Dwyane don’t complement one another.”
### ESPN’s Chris Broussard has been hammering Erik Spoelstra, including this rant on a Boston radio station Wednesday: “I don’t feel they’re well-coached. This team needs somebody with the credibility to kick them in the butt and make them perform and make them play with intensity – a Pat Riley, Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, somebody of that ilk. Spoelstra is just in over his head. He never should have been put in charge of this situation. How about running a play like the Celtics do? Doc Rivers is coaching circles around Spoelstra just like Rick Carlisle did last year in the Finals.”
SPO EXPLAINS HIMSELF, SORT OF
Joel Anthony goes from starting Game 4 to not playing in Game 5. Chris Bosh plays 10 productive first-half minutes, then just four the rest of the night. James Jones, out of the rotation for much of the season, logs more than eight minutes in the Heat’s most important fourth quarter of the year.
With some of his surprising lineup decisions, coach Erik Spoelstra has provided talking points for second-guessers.
Start with Bosh, who had nine points and six rebounds in his first game back from an abdominal strain. Asked Wednesday why Bosh did not play in the fourth quarter, Spoelstra said, “I didn’t think it would necessarily be fair to him to throw him in with three minutes to go.”
Pressed Thursday about why that was even an issue, Spoelstra said, “Those are decisions you have to make as a coach, and after the fact, those can always be second-guessed. But we’re treading in new waters, and he had been out quite a while.”
Bosh said Thursday “I feel like I had more to give” but added, “We had the right guys in at the right time. I can’t win everything in my first game back. Hopefully, I’ll be able to contribute a little more.”
Bosh, who said the fan ovation “made me feel special,” closed with nine points and seven rebounds, but the Heat was outscored by 12 with Bosh on the floor – the worst plus/minus of any Heat player in Game 5.
Spoelstra said Bosh will play more in Game 6 but would not say if he would start and added, “I don’t know how many minutes Chris will actually be able to play. It will be based more on how he feels.”
The Heat is 7-2 with Bosh and Udonis Haslem starting together (including 5-1 in the playoffs), and Spoelstra said that pairing “could happen. That’s an option to go back to some things we were doing before.” But Bosh, asked about that lineup, said, “I don’t think it’s the right time to tinker with things a lot.”
Spoelstra has used mostly a small lineup in this series, but said he wouldn’t be opposed to using two power rotation players together. That would lessen the need for Shane Battier to play power forward.
Bosh said he’s 99 percent healthy, and though he felt some soreness after Game 5, it was “nothing major. My timing is off a little. I made some mistakes. For the most part, I was trying to stay alert, be in the right spots. I will improve for Game 6 and make sure I don’t give up some points like I did. I had stamina. I’m fortunate to get one game under my belt before an elimination game.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he was “very surprised how good Bosh looked.”
As for Anthony not playing, Spoelstra said only, “That’s the way the game played out.” Anthony has been the most effective of the Heat’s centers defending Kevin Garnett, limiting him to 44 percent shooting. Garnett is shooting 50 percent with Anthony off the floor.
The fact Jones played 16 minutes, compared to Mike Miller’s 10, was surprising, considering Miller was ahead of Jones in the rotation when healthy this season. Miller is shooting 44.4 percent in the series (12 for 27), Jones 35.7 percent (5 for 14)
Spoelstra said Jones played the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter – rare for him – to get Battier more rest. And also, “he was giving us some good spacing, was able to take Ray Allen.”
HEAT ODDS AND ENDS
Ronny Turiaf missed Game 5 with a strained right groin and is questionable for Game 6 but seems unlikely to play regardless.
### Spoelstra was asked about pundits saying he has been outcoached by Doc Rivers. “My focus isn’t on individual coaching matchups,” Spoelstra responded. It’s about preparing my team… Doc’s a championship coach.”
James, asked the same question, said: “We’re got a lot of respect for Spo and all the confidence he’s going to help us win.”
### Rivers dismissed the notion that the Heat faces more pressure in this series: “Our sense of urgency might at times be greater than theirs. If not greater, then the same. They’re put under pressure because of the urgency to get it right with this group. We’re put under pressure because our window is closing.”
### For my story previewing Thursday's Game 6 - with more Heat reaction from Thursday - click on our last post.