Chris Bosh said he had more to contribute, but coach Erik Spoelstra didn’t think it was fair to reinsert the seven-time All-Star into the fourth quarter of Game 5. And so it was that Bosh watched as his teammates failed to close out the Boston Celtics, as the Celtics yanked Game 5 from Miami’s blistering fingers and moved within one win of the NBA Finals.
Bosh said he had no conversation with Spoelstra about his benching and wouldn’t expect to have one. Blame Spoelstra if you want for determining that playing Bosh wasn’t fair to him. But try for a second to imagine Kevin Garnett sitting idly on the bench as a pivotal game, maybe even the entire season, slipped away.
Garnett would have had a conversation. It would have included cuss words and veins popping out of his neck, and it would have ended with Garnett checking in at the scorer’s table in an attempt to save the day. No, Garnett would not have sat on the bench, not if he considered himself healthy enough to contribute, not if he saw his Celtics floundering in his absence and felt like he could do something to stop it, not even if his lower-abdominal was bursting with pain.
Why did it seem like Spoelstra specifically planned Bosh’s minutes so they would be played with Garnett on the bench? Bosh’s biggest impact in this series should be neutralizing Garnett, providing an offensive threat from whom Garnett cannot roam freely, stretching out his long arms and using his impressive agility to keep Garnett from dominating the paint. If Bosh was healthy enough to play, why didn’t he start? Why did the Heat turn to Udonis Haslem instead? Why did it seem like Spoelstra was hiding Bosh from Garnett if he’s their best chance to stop him?
And why, if Bosh felt healthy after the game, if he was good enough to proclaim himself 99 percent healthy one day later, didn’t he demand to play as the Heat’s six-point fourth-quarter lead drizzled away?
In all fairness to everybody involved in this situation, Bosh did exhibit a level of rust during his first appearance over the last 23 days. He had nine points and seven rebounds in just 14 minutes. He made impressive plays like a spinning “and-one” and six separate offensive rebounds. But he also demonstrated a lack of defensive mobility, and his outside touch didn’t seem to be there. The Heat were minus-12 with Bosh on the court. He was still, and always will be, more offensively talented than Haslem, and he’s better suited physically to contain Garnett than anyone else on Miami’s roster. But Bosh, despite a few screams and a few highlights, wasn’t great.
The thing is, he didn’t need to be. If he had just stepped on the court he would have allowed LeBron James and Dwyane Wade an easier time finding the basket. If he had just stood in the paint with his arms stretched upward, he would have posed more of a hindrance to Garnett than any of his teammates.
“There’s no reason to dwell on it, think about it a lot,” Bosh said after Game 5, according to ESPN. “We have to go to Boston and win. We have to do whatever it takes to get that done. You know, we’re in this situation now, so hopefully next time in Game 6 when it comes to crunch time, I’ll be out there with my guys.”
Bosh can hope to be out there with his guys all he wants. But with Game 5 slipping away, he should have done more than hope.