MIAMI (AP) - Chris Bosh is back in uniform for the Miami Heat.
The Heat had Bosh on their active roster for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night, after the All-Star forward missed nine games with a strained lower abdominal muscle.
Bosh was not in the starting lineup. The Heat said he would play off the bench, something Bosh has done only 12 times in his career, all those during his rookie season with the Toronto Raptors.
"He'll come in at some point in the rotation in a short burst," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before the game.
Bosh began light on-court workouts about a week ago and participated with teammates in Miami's shootaround practice on Tuesday morning. His return comes at a crucial time, with the East title series knotted at two games apiece.
Spoelstra said he wasn't worried about the notion that weaving Bosh back into the rotation would be problematic, even with the stakes so high. And Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he didn't think Miami would struggle with that, either.
Rivers said if the Celtics had a situation where some of his key players, like Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen or Rajon Rondo, had missed time but could play in a Game 5 of a tied-up playoff series, it'd be an easy call.
"I would do it. I think I would always do it," Rivers said. "I mean, listen, if Kevin, Paul, Ray, Rondo were out and they could play tonight and they hadn't played, I'd play 'em. I wouldn't even hesitate. I don't think really coaches hesitate on that. And number one, Bosh hasn't been out that long. It's not like he's been out two months and he's just coming back. He's missed, what, seven, eight games, nine games? That's not that long."
Bosh got hurt late in the first half of Game 1 of a second-round series against Indiana on May 13. He did not play in the second half of that game, and in the nine postseason games since, Miami has gone 5-4.
Bosh averaged 18 points and 7.9 rebounds in the regular season. He averaged 14.7 points and 6.8 rebounds in six playoff games before getting hurt.
"It was encouraging this past week," Spoelstra said. "He's able to do some more activity on the court. The last two days he's been able to do real basketball work."
The final audition came about 90 minutes before game time, when Bosh went through his usual game-night warmup session. Spoelstra's decision was announced by the team not long afterward.
Miami's offense is far more effective when Bosh plays, and the Heat said they were hoping his mere presence would at least somewhat occupy Garnett and other Boston defenders. Heat guard Dwyane Wade said without Bosh on the floor, the Celtics have been able to do things against him that they wouldn't typically attempt.
"He's looked great the last couple days that we've gotten to see him," Heat forward LeBron James, the NBA's reigning MVP, said Tuesday before the word came that Bosh would play. "He looks comfortable with what we've been able to do. But I think we all know that a shootaround or a walk-through practice is totally different than game time."
The Celtics were not being caught off-guard. Bosh has been in their scouting report since the series started.
"He's another big scoring threat for them, a guy who can really put up some good numbers on any given night," Pierce said. "He stretches the floor with his shooting and he can drive the ball, so it's definitely something you've got to be aware of."