Chris Bosh's return to the starting line-up is a key reason the Miami Heat are headed home tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals, the team's coach said.
Bosh, the sometimes forgotten player of the Heat's Big Three, had 15 points and 16 rebounds in Thursday's 100-96 victory and was the cornerstone of Miami's 48-32 advantage in points in the paint.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called Bosh's performance "sensational" as he prepares for Sunday's Game Three in South Beach with the best-of-seven National Basketball Association (NBA) title series tied at once game apiece.
Bosh strained an abdominal muscle against Indiana in the Eastern Conference semi-final and has been working his way back by coming off the bench.
Spoelstra said the veteran forward did not have to utter a word in practice to indicate he was ready to return to the starting line-up.
"I brought the first group out, and I said, 'Okay, get the red team out here and let's walk through a couple things,'" recalled Spoelstra.
"And Chris walked right out and put his head under the rim, and so that told me what we were doing (Thursday) in terms of starting him. And he gave us a lot in the paint.
"And we need that again and again and again."
Bosh, 28, said his desire was there for Game Two even though he was not sure he had fully recovered from his injury.
"I put it in my mind that I had to really give the effort that I had been giving before, whether I was ready or not," he said. "So it was a good time to really see where I'm at.
"Fortunately things went well for us, it went well for me individually, and we did what we were supposed to do. Now we just have to make sure we rest correctly, talk about how we can get better and prepare for Game Three."
The widely watched series, featuring three-time league Most Valuable Player LeBron James of the Heat and the Thunder's three-time reigning scoring champion Kevin Durant, shifts to Miami for the next three games.
While the ship seems to have been righted for the Heat following their series-opening 105-94 loss, Oklahoma City needs to stop stumbling out of the gate.
In Game One, they fell behind by 13 in the first half but staged a late rally and won. In the next game, the trailed by 17 in the first half and their fourth quarter run fell just short.
"I liked the way we came back and fought and made it a one���possession game at the end," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "But when you get down 17, too many things have to happen perfect for you."
"But I give our guys credit that we did fight, come back. But that's two games in a row, first six minutes down 10 or 12 points. We've got to come out better."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)