A Game 1 win by the Miami Heat over Indiana in the Eastern Conference semifinals has morphed into concern over an abdominal injury to star big man Chris Bosh.
Bosh, who scored 13 points before suffering the injury shortly before halftime of the Heat's 95-86 victory on Sunday, is out indefinitely after an MRI on Monday confirmed a strained lower abdominal muscle.
Miami was able to persevere without its top interior presence thanks in large part to newly-minted NBA MVP LeBron James, who had 32 points, 15 rebounds and five assists as the Heat grinded out the Game 1 victory,
The contest was deadlocked after three quarters, but Miami opened the fourth with an 8-2 run and never relinquished the lead after that.
Dwyane Wade added 29 points for the second-seeded Heat, who defeated the Knicks in five games to advance to the second round. They have won 13 straight playoff home games versus Eastern Conference opponents.
David West and Roy Hibbert both recorded a double-double for the Pacers, who also won their opening series in five games, downing the Dwight Howard-less Magic to reach the second round for the first time since 2005.
West had 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Hibbert had 17 and 11. Danny Granger, typically Indiana's top offensive threat, was held scoreless in the first half for the first time since April 10, 2007 and finished with just seven points on 1-of-10 shooting.
"We're not going to change," said West. "We didn't play a good enough game tonight as a group to compete with these guys. We can play a lot better than we did."
James, who on Saturday won his third MVP award in the last four seasons, scored 16 points in the fourth quarter and continuously got to the basket or the foul line down the stretch.
The Pacers kept it close, cutting the deficit to 86-85 on George Hill's three-pointer with five minutes remaining but James responded with four straight points. He went 6-for-6 from the foul line in the final frame and buried a pullup jumper inside the final minute to put the game away.
"He made MVP plays on both ends of the court," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said when talking about his superstar. "The rebounding, defending (West), but also creating a lot of offense for us. Particularly in the fourth quarter when we needed some relief."
As for Game 2, Spoelstra wouldn't say who will start in Bosh's place or how long he expects his big man to sit.
"We're not even going to speculate," the Miami mentor said. "We just have to see day to day. There absolutely isn't a timetable right now. He was in today doing treatment."
Bosh, however, essentially ruled himself out of the semifinals.
"This season has to be extended for me to play again," he said. "So that's what's on my mind. "
James, meanwhile, compared the Heat losing Bosh to Chicago's injury troubles. The top-seeded Bulls lost both Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah and lost to the No. 8 Sixers.
"It's going to be a challenge for us. We're missing the biggest part of our team, probably the biggest part of our team," said the MVP. "Nobody feels sorry for the Bulls losing (Derrick Rose) or Joakim Noah getting hurt. Nobody feels sorry for you and we don't want anybody feeling sorry for us. We look forward to the challenge. And we'll be ready."
Ronny Turiaf started the second half of Game 1 in Bosh's absence but Joel Anthony or sliding Udonis Haslem over from power forward are also options for Spoelstra. Turiaf plays with energy and offers the opportunity to keep the rest of his rotation intact but he is tremendously undersized against Hibbert.
"It changes their team, but we've got to understand it doesn't allow you to play 5-on-4," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "They have got great players they can fill in for him. Obviously, not having to worry about Bosh helps because he's such a terrific player."
Miami won three of the four from Indiana in the regular season. The only other playoff meeting between the Pacers and Heat came in 2004 in the East semifinals with Indiana winning in six games.
Game 3 of the series will be in Indianapolis on Thursday.