Pressure for Chris Bosh to return grows with each Heat loss

BOSTON – Chris Bosh sat quietly in the corner of the locker room late Friday night after the Miami Heat suffered their first loss of this Eastern Conference finals. He was wearing a burgundy sport coat with a pink pocket square, a crème and pinstriped dress shirt, dark blue pants, Neapolitan ice cream colored socks and shiny brown dress shoes. No question, the Heat power forward was clean.

Bosh's attire alone didn't make him the standout in the room. He was the man of the moment, having not played a minute in Miami's 101-91 loss to the Boston Celtics at the TD Garden. Everyone wanted to know when Bosh would go from donning the Pat Riley collection to being back healthy in a Heat uniform.

"I'm just waiting my turn," Bosh said, declining to reveal anything more on his injury, a lower abdominal strain.

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Bosh got hurt May 13 during Game 1 of a second-round series against the Indiana Pacers. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra described Bosh's injury status as "indefinite" prior to Friday's game.

Bosh took part in the Heat's workout in Miami on Friday. Spoelstra didn't have an update on Bosh's status prior to Saturday's practice, leading many to think he won't be available for Sunday's Game 4.

 "We don't know when Chris will be back," Heat forward LeBron James said. "We're not going to go into the next game hoping he is going to be there. We have to prepare as if he's not playing. We're going to prepare for Game 4 like he's not playing."

There are some long-term advantages for having Bosh sit out. When the Celtics don't have 6-foot-11 forward Kevin Garnett in the lineup, their size is less daunting for the Heat, who still lead the series 2-1. A potential Finals matchup, which Bosh could be resting for, would be against the much taller San Antonio Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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The Heat still have two of the NBA's top players in James and Dwyane Wade. Miami is 5-3 in this year's postseason without the 6-foot-11 Bosh. Its five-game winning streak was snapped on Friday.

"Probably the biggest confidence-builder for our basketball team was the mere fact that the last two years we simply couldn't win without Chris," Spoelstra said. "We couldn't play effectively without Chris. He was our most important player."

Said James: "We've played great ball since he's been out. Guys have stepped up in his absence and guys will continue to have to step up in his absence."

Miami shouldn't get too confident sans Bosh against a championship experienced Boston team coming off a big home triumph. Usual small forward Shane Battier, Bosh's replacement, is averaging 6.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in the conference finals. He went scoreless Friday. Bosh was averaging 14.7 points and 6.8 rebounds in six postseason games pre-injury. Garnett is also averaging 21.7 points and 9.7 rebounds against the Heat this series. In three regular-season games versus Miami, he averaged 15.3 points and 7.3 rebounds. Being guarded by 6-foot-9 power forward Udonis Haslem isn't the same as being matched up against the taller and longer Bosh.

"It doesn't serve anyone well if he's half Chris Bosh," Battier said. "The most important thing is for him to get healthy. When he is, he will join us and he will help us. But there is no use in hoping or wishing. No time for that right now in the playoffs.

"We're up 2-1 in the playoffs playing with a 215-pound power forward. With all things considered, it could be worse."

It was just a year ago when Bosh was viewed as a distant third in the Heat's "Big Three." But with every loss in his absence, Bosh's value increases and pressure to trade that dress shirt for a No. 1 Heat jersey gets stronger.

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