From Comcast SportsNetMIAMI (AP) -- Heat forward Chris Bosh insists food tasted better this summer. People were friendlier to him and his family. Everything, he said, seemed more fun.It could have all gone a decidedly different way.The abdominal injury that nearly ended his season -- and probably would have doomed Miami's title chances -- is behind him now, Bosh said. But when things looked most bleak, when the Heat lost two straight games to the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference semifinals after he got hurt, Bosh was preparing himself for a long offseason without a championship to savor."I thought it was over," Bosh said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I didn't want to fully emotionally invest myself anymore because I didn't want to get hurt like last year when we lost the finals. I kind of had a letdown. I'm not going to lie. I was defeated. And then my wife came to me and said, You know, you said things were going to look bad, but you have to keep going.'"So he did. After missing about three weeks -- the typical recovery time for an injury like his is often twice that long -- Bosh returned for the East finals against Boston. He made a huge 3-pointer in Game 7 as part of a 19-point effort to help beat the Celtics, then averaged 14.6 points against Oklahoma City as the Heat beat the Thunder in five games for the NBA championship.On Saturday the Heat open training camp in Miami. And Bosh is eager to get the group back together."I feel good. I feel real good," Bosh said. "I've been pretty eager to get back with training camp looming and everything. I'm real excited to get back, start working. I've been in the gym a few times in the past couple weeks and that itch for basketball is there. I'm glad it's there and I'm looking forward to this season."He's beginning his 10th NBA season, as are fellow Heat stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Their ballyhooed decision to team up in Miami in the summer of 2010 led to countless adjustments to everyone, especially Bosh, who went from being the top option in Toronto to the perceived third-wheel with the Heat.In Miami, they insist that isn't even close to the truth. Wade and James routinely referred to Bosh last season as Miami's "most important player," and the reasons why they say that were on display when the Heat struggled in the playoffs while Bosh dealt with the abdominal injury."I know his talent," Wade said. "I know what he brings to the game."By now, probably just about everyone does.Game 7 against Boston was a classic for the Heat, a game where for 13 minutes -- a 46-possession span -- of the second half, neither team led by more than two points. Bosh changed that for good when he made his career-best third 3-pointer of the night and sparked the burst that pushed Miami to what became a 101-88 win.Hard to believe that a couple weeks earlier, he could barely walk."I remember thinking just before that shot, if it hits my hands, I'm shooting it," Bosh said. "I don't really think that one particular shot was a significant moment. There were a lot of significant moments. ... The whole time that game was going on, I just knew we were going to win. I didn't have any doubt in my mind. And every time I touched the ball and I shot the ball in that game, I knew it was going in. That's just how I felt."The biggest key for him now is not feeling the same sort of pain he felt when he got hurt while dunking in Game 1 of the second-round series with Indiana.It's been his biggest priority this summer, and will stay that way."It's behind me. But I still have to pay attention to stretching and strengthening all the muscles in the core around it and everything," Bosh said. "It's something that I just can't forget about. I'm not sure if I can re-aggravate it but I'm sure, just like anything, it has the potential to be chronic. If we stay on top of it and continue to do the proper treatment, proper stretching and proper strengthening, I don't see it being an issue."Bosh spent nearly a decade chasing his first NBA title, as did James. Several other players on last season's Heat roster waited even longer to be fitted for their first championship ring.The motivation going forward, Bosh said, is easy. He wants the Heat to, as he put it, "get greedy.""Winning a championship is only the beginning for this group, and we have to look at it that way," Bosh said. "We have to look at it as we're trying to have a dynasty. I think that's the next thing. The only way you can do that is to have more than one championship. I look at it as a five- to six-year increment, where we're trying to win as many as possible."
Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.
But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.
Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.
And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.
Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.
But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.
The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6).
And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.
“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”
Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.
Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.
“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”
And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.
Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.
Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.
“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”
The pressure that comes with a tight game in the fourth quarter can be a weighty proposition for some NBA players.
Then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who continues to save his best work for the fourth quarter.
Saturday’s 107-106 win at Philadelphia had yet another Thomas-like finish for the Celtics as the 5-foot-9 guard was at his most dominant state in the game’s final minutes.
Thomas finished with a season high-tying 37 points which included a stretch in the fourth in which he scored 12 straight.
“I just love the fourth quarter,” Thomas told reporters following the win. “I just want to win. Whether it’s making plays for myself or making plays for my teammates, it’s about making the right play. I get ultra- aggressive in that fourth quarter. That’s what I’ve always done.”
And his teammates appreciate how Thomas elevates his play in the game’s most pivotal moments.
“A lot of the credit is to Isaiah, how he was able to finish the game tonight,” said Avery Bradley. “He was able to make shots when we needed him to.”
And while Thomas knows his shots won’t fall all the time down the stretch, his fourth quarter mentality does provide him with a level of confidence that no matter what the defense does to him or what the score may be, he can swing the game’s momentum in his team’s favor.
“Some guys get a little tight, they get a little timid (in the fourth quarter),” Thomas said. “I embrace it. I want to be great. I want to be somebody my teammates can call on when the game is close.”
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday night’s game.
Isaiah Thomas: There was no more dominant player on Saturday night than Thomas. He finished with a game-high 37 points along with seven assists.
Dario Saric: It was a breakout game for the 22-year-old rookie who led the Sixers with 21 points as well as 12 rebounds for his third double-double this season. Both his points and rebound totals tied his career highs in those categories.
Avery Bradley: Boston’s surge towards victory did not kick in until the third quarter which is when Bradley elevated his play offensively. In the third he scored 10 of his 20 points on the night, to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.
Ersan Illyasova: He finished with 18 points which included a pair of three-pointers in the closing seconds of the game. He also grabbed six rebounds and two assists.
Celtics first half defense: There wasn’t much to like about Boston defensively in the first half. The Celtics struggled to take away or limit Philadelphia’s only strength Saturday night which was three-point shooting. The Sixers nailed nine of their 18 three-point attempts in the first half in addition to hurting the Celtics’ transition defense which gave up seven fast-break points to Philly compared to Boston scoring just one point in transition.