Bosh may be closer, and Heat show a need in Game 3
BOSTON (AP) - LeBron James has had too many nights like this, where he couldn't get enough help for long stretches of the game.
It's just that most of them were back in Cleveland.
With a quiet first half from Dwyane Wade and little contributions from any other starter, James' 34 points were wasted in a 101-91 loss Friday night that cut the Miami Heat's lead over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals to 2-1.
Chris Bosh seems closer to returning from injury, and for the first time since early in the last round, the Heat look like they need him. Game 4 is Sunday in Boston.
James had 30 points through three quarters, the rest of his teammates managing only 33. He had 14 of their 26 field goals at that point as the Heat dug themselves a 22-point hole, too big to climb out of even with a big fourth quarter.
Wade finished with 18 points and Mario Chalmers had 14, but many of those came in a fourth-quarter comeback that never got particularly close. Wade's streak of 12 straight 20-point games against the Celtics in the postseason was snapped after he shot 9 of 20.
There was no hint of any trouble early for the Heat, who were shooting nearly 70 percent from the field in the first quarter and had a six-point lead. Suddenly they went cold, going scoreless for about 7 minutes while the Celtics ran off 15 straight points to go ahead 37-28 with 7:47 remaining in the second period.
The deficit grew to 13 points at halftime, when Wade was just 3 of 9 for six points. The Heat were just 5 of 18 (28 percent) in the second quarter, with Wade missing six of his eight attempts.
The Heat, with youth and athleticism on their side, remained a force whenever they got in transition. But they stalled beyond James in the halfcourt for long stretches, settling for jumpers.
That's where Bosh would help. The Heat often throw it into him and move to open spots to begin their offense, and he is one of their best shooters. Certainly better than Shane Battier, his replacement in the starting lineup who missed all six shot attempts, some of them nowhere close.
The Heat are still saying Bosh is out indefinitely with the lower abdominal strain he sustained in Game 1 of the second-round series with Indiana. He traveled with Miami to Boston and took part the Heat's morning workout Friday, but they didn't do much so it's hard to gauge any progress by that.
Coach Erik Spoelstra said the All-Star forward will be re-evaluated daily, but wouldn't say if that meant he would be able to play in Game 4 on Sunday. Though the Heat know they would need him for any shot at a championship, they had played so well behind a dynamic two-man game from James and Wade that it seemed they had overcome a dependence on Bosh.
"Probably the biggest confidence-builder for our basketball team was the mere fact that for the last two years we simply couldn't win without Chris, but we simply couldn't play effectively without Chris. He was our most important player,'' Spoelstra said before the game.
James is now, but he can't do it alone. That didn't work against the Celtics when he was still in Cleveland, and it wasn't enough when he was forced to do it for too long Friday.