The road to the NBA Finals got a little harder for the Miami Heat when All-Star forward Chris Bosh was diagnosed with a lower abdominal strain that will keep him sidelined indefinitely.
Bosh suffered the injury after driving to the basket in the first quarter of Sunday’s Eastern Conference semifinals opening game against the Indiana Pacers. Bosh dunked over Roy Hibbert but grimaced in pain. After making a free throw Bosh tried to play through the injury but eventually had to leave the court.
“We’re taking it day by day. It’s not the worst thing that could have happened so that was good news. We started treatments and everything, we’ll see how my body responds,” said Bosh, who averaged 18 points and nearly eight rebounds during the regular season.
Shaquille O’Neal had a similar abdominal injury in 1999 and he missed 21 games. San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili also had the same injury and he missed two weeks.
Bosh’s value to the Heat extends beyond scoring, as he normally guards the opposing team’s best big man late in games and is Miami’s best frontcourt player. He missed nine games during the regular season and the Heat — a team that averages 100 points per game — went 4-5 and averaged 87 points during his absence.
With Bosh out of the lineup, the scoring load falls heavily on three-time NBA MVP LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. The duo combined for 61 of Miami’s 95 points Sunday, so expect more of the same for the rest of the Heat-Pacers series.
“Obviously, it could have been much worse,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We do not have a timetable on him, so we’re moving forward with the guys that’ll be ready.
“We feel this team was built with a great deal of versatility. That was one of our strengths and it’ll also be an opportunity for someone to step forward.”
Joel Anthony, who began the season as the Heat’s starting center, is expected to fill in for Bosh and be paired forward Udonis Haslem in the frontcourt. Ronny Turiaf is also expected to see significant playing time at center and power forward.
For most of the fourth quarter in Game 1 against the Pacers, Spoelstra had Anthony at center and James at power forward to go along with Dwyane Wade, Mike Miller and Shane Battier.
“It’s the playoffs, and there’s no excuses for anybody. I mean the Bulls lost their MVP,” James said. ‘A lot of teams got injuries. We look forward to the challenge.”