Chris Bosh hadn't started a game since May 13 and hadn't recorded a double-double since April 16. By the end of the first half on Thursday night, those uncharacteristically long streaks had ended.
Heat coach Erik Spoelsta, stubbornly keeping his lineup secret pregame, finally pulled the expected trigger, inserting the seven-time All-Star into the starting lineup.
Bosh rewarded that trust, grabbing 10 points and 10 rebounds in the first half, en route to a 16-point, 15-rebound effort.
“I kind of put it in my mind that I knew that I had to really give the effort that I had been giving before, whether I was ready or not,” Bosh said. “Fortunately things went well for us, it went well for me individually.”
What Bosh gave — a strong inside presence and a big man who can spread the floor — is exactly what Shane Battier said Miami has been lacking of late.
“C.B. is so huge for us, because he is a dimension we just don't have,” Battier said. “We just don't have size down low and a guy that can just wreck havoc in the middle. We survived basically two series without him, but no way we can beat this team without C.B.”
Throughout the past three games, LeBron James' jumper has been inconsistent, bordering on ice cold. Dating to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, James is 4-of-28 on shots outside the paint.
But James was in attack mode from the outset Thursday night, forgetting about his rusty outside game and barreling through the lane with controlled force.
Combining a perfect 12-of-12 from the line, James scored nine of his 10 field goals from inside the paint, accounting for 30 of his 32 points.
“For me, it's all about aggression,” James said. “You know, I just try to get into the paint, make things happen, create for myself, create for others and put some pressure on their defense.
When that jumper was needed, James brushed off the cobwebs and banked in a clutch 17-foot runner late in the fourth quarter for one of the game's bigger baskets.
Slicing through the lane, Dwyane Wade dropped off a swift bounce pass to Bosh. Perfect pass, Bosh dunk, 98-91 Heat lead with 53 seconds left.
Oklahoma City called timeout, some fans filed for the exits and the inevitability of a split was felt throughout the arena.
But then a wild sequence unfolded, with Kevin Durant scoring five points in 13 seconds, made possible by a critical Miami turnover in the open court.
“I mean, it was a tough situation to be in, especially with them,” Bosh said. “They're long and athletic. You know, if you're in the middle of the court, you really don't know where everybody is coming from.”
The late miscue is irrelevant now, but that play nearly turned into a costly error that potentially swings a series.
“They're going to trail us and really tap the ball from behind and make it tough on us,” Bosh said. “But we'll be more prepared for that in Game 3, if we come in that same situation.”