Chris Bosh participated in shootaround Tuesday morning, which puts him in good position to play tonight - barring an unexpected issue with his abdominal strain in the next several hours. He is expected to play, though Erik Spoelstra insisted Tuesday morning that Bosh's status for Game 5 will be a "game-time decision."
"He was able to go through a workout yesterday and a shootaround today," Spoelstra said. "We have to continue to evaluate. We'll let you know when we know. The last two days, he's been able to do real basketball work."
LeBron James said Bosh has looked "great" the past two days. Dwyane Wade said because of Bosh's absence, Kevin Garnett has roamed around defensively like an NFL safety. "We have other guys he doesn't feel are much of an offensive threat," Wade said. "That's been the biggest difference in this whole series. I've played against Boston a lot of times and I haven't been able to play the way they're playing me now."
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Every time the Heat squanders a late-game opportunity to win a game, the network analysts start ranting. Magic Johnson and Jon Barry did it Sunday. It was Charles Barkley's turn Monday night.
On TNT's Western Conference finals postgame show, Barkley again ripped the Heat's play selection late in the game - this time for Sunday's final play of regulation, in which LeBron James passed to Udonis Haslem for a rushed, well-off-the-mark jumper.
"Are you kidding me?" Barkley said of the play call. "Kenny's son could draw up a better play." That would be TNT colleague Kenny Smith, whose son is 15.
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Some comments from Celtics coach Doc Rivers on a late Monday afternoon conference call:
### "We've prepared every game like Chris Bosh is going to play and eventually he will, maybe [Tuesday]. It's more challenging when you've been out a long time. Especially if your team is playing well, you don't want him to get in the way. But as a coach, you do want him to get in the way... to play the way he's played....
"All the trapping we're doing, it's more difficult to do when Bosh is on the floor. He really stretches the floor, is a great shooter. Bosh is a little taller than Shane Battier. We can't get our fingertips on the ball when Bosh is shooting."
### Rivers said of Kevin Garnett, "I think Kevin will try to post up whoever they throw out there and we will post him up. It's just another body [with Bosh]. Chris is obviously very talented, and poses his own problems, but I don't think Kevin is going to be that concerned with whoever is there."
### On this Celtics team: "Last year, we would have been out of the playoffs. We weren't a team. This team is very close, very competitive. They understand Rajon Rondo is the leader of the team and they've gotten out of each other's way with roles. All of the new guys have added a great competitive energy with our team. Early on, when we were losing, I said people were mixing up conditioning with age. People said we're too old. I said, 'No, we're out of shape.'
### Rivers said he probably won't use a small lineup as much with Bosh in the lineup.
### Rivers, on Rajon Rondo's comments that they have exploited the Heat's penchant for complaining on the officiating: "I'll leave that alone. Rondo is very emotional. If that motivates anybody else, that motivates anybody else. If you need motivation at this point, there's something wrong anyway."
### Rivers said Paul Pierce "has guarded [James] almost too much at times. That's why he's fouled out two of the four games. Mickael Pietrus has done a terrific job overall. Guarding LeBron is hard - he comes at you in so many different ways." Rivers said he will tell Pierce not to try to draw as many offensive fouls.
### Rivers said "the calls down the stretch of that game [Sunday] could have gone either way. Could have been no calls. I complain as much as anybody, but I understand it's a brutal job. And this series, particularly, it's a brutal job to referee this series."
### Though Wade has struggled offensively in the first half of this series, Rivers said: "He's been able to guard Rondo, Ray Allen. That's what makes him and LeBron so good. LeBron in this series has now guarded [every position]. The only guy he hasn't guarded is me. It's pretty impressive."
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Here's our advance for Game 5, which also appears on the home page:
Facing a resilient, resurgent opponent with championship pedigree, the Heat hopes a return home and a possible return of Chris Bosh can deliver a sorely-needed boost.
The Heat is hopeful Bosh will be able to play in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday, barring any red flags in a workout earlier in the day. But coach Erik Spoelstra said Monday, “It’s premature to say he’ll definitively play.”
For the first time since Bosh suffered an abdominal strain on May 13, Spoelstra changed his status from out “indefinitely” to “day to day,” – in the wake of an ESPN report that Bosh will play Tuesday (barring a setback) and a Sunday night Miami Herald report that Bosh might play in Game 5.
“He’s making significant progress,” Spoelstra said. “He had three good workouts in Boston. Each day will be a new evaluation. He’ll get a vote. Everybody will be involved in a decision…
“You always have to take players’ decisions with a grain of salt. He said he was ready 10 days ago. If he doesn’t play, it’s not a setback.”
During the workouts in Boston, Bosh was effective in lateral movements – a key to returning from this type of injury – and Spoelstra said Bosh’s “conditioning and comfort level” will play a role in Tuesday’s decision.
The Heat is 5-4 in the nine full playoff games that Bosh has missed, with Dwyane Wade shooting 55 percent with Bosh on the court and 45 percent otherwise. Since last season, Miami is 12-11 without Bosh.
The Heat’s offense “has changed considerably with him out,” but Spoelstra will “gladly take the challenge” of readjusting to accommodate Bosh, because “we couldn’t win without him for two years, and looked horrible without him. He was our most important player for a long period of time.”
Spoelstra wouldn’t say if Bosh will start in his first game back. Regardless, the Heat must find a way to get off to better starts. Wade must, too.
Miami trailed 39-26 in the second quarter of its Game 2 win and trailed 55-42 at halftime of its Game 3 loss. Boston led 21-6 with 5:14 left in the first quarter of Game 4, and 45-28 by early in the second quarter.
"They got everything they wanted and more in the first half,” LeBron James said. “We’ve got to come out with a sense of urgency. Last two games, they have come out and hit us hard.”
Wade said falling behind by so much early – and then needing to expend enormous energy to rally – “takes too much out of you.” He said the Celtics were “carving us up” in the first half. “Can’t nobody beat the Celtics when they have that many people being effective.”
Spoelstra tried to infuse energy Sunday by starting Joel Anthony in place of Ronny Turiaf. But that accomplished nothing, and Spoelstra opted for Udonis Haslem to start the third quarter.
“It’s been like that the last two years, guys in and out of the lineup,” James said. “At times, it’s difficult to work with that, but we’ve got to figure it out.”
But Haslem said “there’s nothing we can draw up that coach can do about effort. We can’t go out there cruising. We can’t be cool. We can’t take our time. From start to finish, it’s got to be an all-out effort.”
As for Wade, his first halves in this series have mirrored the Heat’s. He shot 2 for 11 in an eight-point first half in Game 4, after shooting 1 for 6 in the first half of Game 2 and 3 for 9 in Game 3.
The contrast between his first- and second-half/overtime numbers in the series is stunning: 8 for 31 for 22 points before halftime, 24 for 39 for 61 points after halftime.
The Celtics have blanketed Wade with double teams and swarming defense from Marquis Daniels, Keyon Dooling and others. Wade has attempted only five free throws in the past two games after getting to the line 17 times in the first two.
“We’ll continue to make adjustments to get him in places where he could attack,” Spoelstra said.
Wade is shooting 27 percent from 15 feet and beyond against Boston and 30 percent from that distance overall in postseason. During the regular season, Wade shot 37 percent from 16 to 23 feet and 26.8 percent on three-pointers.
“I got a lot of good looks, more than the last game,” Wade said. He also struggled finishing closer to the basket Sunday, missing six of nine shots in the paint.