MIAMI — Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat were relieved by the diagnosis. It’s the prognosis — or lack of one — that’s a source of worry now.
And suddenly, the Indiana Pacers may be even more of a threat.
Bosh strained a lower abdominal muscle in Game 1 of the teams’ Eastern Conference semifinal series, that original diagnosis confirmed Monday after an MRI exam. The team said Bosh is out “indefinitely,” though coach Erik Spoelstra and others say the injury could have been worse.
Either way, Bosh is out for Game 2 on Tuesday, and sounds like he probably won’t play again in this series.
“This season has to be extended for me to play again,” Bosh said. “So that’s what’s on my mind.”
Bosh was hurt late in the first half as he drove for a dunk and got fouled by Indiana’s Roy Hibbert. The foul almost certainly played no role in the injury, as Bosh fell forward to his hands and knees after landing and stayed down for a few seconds. He got up and made his free throw, but dropped to the court again on the ensuing possession, leaving the game for evaluation.
Without Bosh, Miami rallied behind LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who outscored the Pacers 42-38 in the second half themselves and fueled a series-opening 95-86 win.
“Seeing him yesterday, seeing the pain he was in, you feared the worst,” Wade said as practice wrapped up Monday. “But seeing him downstairs in the training room with a smile on his face — it wasn’t a big smile, it was a little one — but just to see him in there, it was good.
“You never know with these kind of things how long it takes.”
It’ll be an adjustment for Miami, which will likely start either Ronny Turiaf or Joel Anthony at center and keep Udonis Haslem in the opening lineup at power forward — and that trio earned a tip of the cap from Indiana coach Frank Vogel on Monday when he called them “three of the best dirty-work guys in the business.” James will see some time at power forward as well, which isn’t uncommon for Miami anyway.
The Pacers will also be doing some adjusting as well, after spending the buildup to this series preparing for James, Wade and Bosh.
“It changes their team, but we’ve got to understand it doesn’t allow you to play 5-on-4,” Vogel said. “They’ve got great players they can fill in for him. They’ve got different lineups that are sometimes more effective than the lineup with Bosh. Obviously, not having to worry about Bosh helps because he’s such a terrific player.”
Indiana got a look at what Miami will do without Bosh in the second half, when James and Wade dominated the ball. James took 17 shots in the second half, Wade took 13. No other Heat player took more than two shots after halftime.
“If Chris can’t play it’ll be really heavy, heavy pick-and-roll sets for LeBron and D-Wade,” Indiana forward Danny Granger said. “That’s what it was when he went out of the game. They kind of lost their low-post presence so now those guys will dominate the ball even more, which makes my job and Paul George’s job a little difficult, and our bigs, because they’ll set multiple pick-and-rolls every possession.”
Granger’s focus Monday wasn’t entirely on defense, and the extra challenge that’ll come with Wade and James having the ball in their hands more now. Indiana’s top scorer had no points in the first half of Game 1, his lowest since April 10, 2007 — a span of 366 games including playoffs, according to STATS LLC.
Chances are, Granger won’t be taking just 10 shots again on Tuesday.
“I expect guys to always be aggressive against me,” James said. “We’ll see. I’m always ready for a guy to be aggressive, no matter who I’m going up against. So I won’t be surprised by it, if he is.”
Meanwhile, talk of fouls — an issue in this series before it even started, after Vogel said the Heat were the league’s biggest bunch of floppers — continued Monday. And Vogel wasn’t happy about the 31 fouls charged to his team in Game 1 either, but he pointed the blame squarely at those who picked up those calls and not those who made them.
“We understand loud and clear that the officiating didn’t beat us in Game 1,” Vogel said. “The Miami Heat beat us in Game 1. We understand that. Part of winning on the road in the playoffs is overcoming that.”
For the Heat, part of winning anywhere for at least the immediate future will be overcoming not having Bosh, someone who James — the reigning NBA MVP — routinely refers to as Miami’s most important player.
“It’s not the worst thing that could have happened,” Bosh said. “So that was good news. We started treatments and everything, it’s a process and we’ll see how my body responds. … There’s been so many curveballs throughout my career and really throughout this season, nothing would surprise me. I just want to be out there and playing with my teammates.”
As has been the case all season when the Heat dealt with injuries, like ones that kept Wade sidelined and another that kept Bosh out for the final six games of the regular season, coach Erik Spoelstra insisted that his team has enough depth to compete.
“We feel this team was built with a great deal of versatility,” Spoelstra said. “We feel that that is one of our best strengths.”