Heat move forward minus Chris Bosh
The team remains uncertain when -- or if -- Bosh will return from the strained abdominal muscle he sustained on May 15 in Game 1 of Miami's semifinal series against Indiana. The Heat will play Game 1 of the conference finals on Monday against Boston.
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In his most extensive update of Bosh's status since the injury, Spoelstra said the perennial All-Star has modestly progressed in his treatment and light conditioning sessions, such as riding a stationary bike, in recent days. But several Heat players have said Bosh has been unable to participate in any on-court work with the team in limited practices.
"He's doing a little bit more, [but] he's still indefinite," Spoelstra said of Bosh. "For me, it's my responsibility right now to prepare this team without him. If and when we get to a point when he starts to emerge into the picture, we'll gladly deal with that. For our mental state of health -- and I'd love to [get] Chris -- but our preparation is without him."
The Heat were able to regroup without Bosh to eliminate the Pacers in six games after falling into a 2-1 series hole. Spoelstra suggested the adjustments the Heat made were part of "reinventing ourselves" without Bosh, who has averaged 18 points and 7.9 rebounds during the season. He averaged 14.7 points and 6.8 rebounds in Miami's first six playoff games, including five against New York.
Results of an MRI confirmed the strain a day after Bosh was injured, and the Heat planned to re-evaluate the nine-year veteran after two to three weeks of rest and therapy.
Bosh repeatedly has said his teammates would have to extend the season -- presumably to the Finals -- in order to give him enough time to return to action this season.
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In the meantime, the Heat have had to rely on increased production from LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who put together a historic stretch of games to pull away from the Pacers with three consecutive victories. James averaged 32.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 8 assists on 55 percent shooting. In that same span, Wade contributed 33 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists on 62 percent shooting.
Considering the uncertainty around Bosh, Spoelstra suggested James and Wade would have to continue to produce at that level -- if not more -- for the Heat to advance past the conference finals and have a chance to win a title.
"What happened the last three games, now that has to be the norm," Spoelstra said of not only the play of Wade and James, but the entire team. "What I told them [Saturday] as a team is we have to go to the next level. That won't be enough for our ultimate goal."
Wade and James had similar reactions when initially informed of Spoelstra's comments after Saturday's practice. Both rocked back on their heels and raised their eyebrows.
James said he's prepared to make any adjustments necessary with his offense if Bosh is ready to return.
"You prepare yourself to try to go out there and play at a high level," said James, who averaged 42.3 minutes the past three games against Indiana. "Does it always happen that way? Nah. It doesn't.
"Sometimes the ball doesn't always go in for you. We're not just shooting all layups. We're also making jumpers and floaters and things of that nature. [Spoelstra] said the right thing to just keep us on our toes, let us know we can't have a relaxed moment."
The Heat took advantage of a few extra days of rest before the next round by taking a day off Friday and going through a light workout Saturday. The workload will increase on Sunday in advance of Game 1 on Monday.
For now, Wade will enjoy the chance to replenish before he helps James carry the bulk of the burden without Bosh. Wade, who had his troublesome left knee drained during the Pacers series, joked that he can't see the two of them putting up similar numbers like that again, with a game scheduled to be played every other night in the next series.
"I don't think that's going to happen," Wade said. "You don't know what the numbers are going to be. But I just think [Spoelstra] wants the focus, the attack and that mentality, more so than anything."