Game Notes: Heat at Bulls
Round two, no excuses.
by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
The last time the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat faced off, the Bulls pulled off a close victory but many people wanted to place an asterisk next to the W in the win column because LeBron James sat the game out with an ankle injury.
Granted, Chicago didn’t have Joakim Noah available who was out with an injured thumb that required him to have surgery, but the fact that James didn’t play was deemed more significant, and rightfully so. Anytime a player who is considered not only the best player in the NBA, but also the best in the world doesn’t suit up, it makes a difference.
But last night, none of those things were a factor. Both teams were healthy and it was an opportunity for fans to get a glimpse into what could very well be a second round or even a Conference Finals pairing in the Playoffs this year.
Early on, it looked as if the Heat were going to try and put the game away early.
In the first quarter, the Heat were led by James and Dwyane Wade who combined for 19 points as Miami was able to get out and run which is their biggest strength, and makes them almost impossible to deal with if you’re unable to slow them down. Miami scored 31 points in the first quarter, 16 of which were fast break points and as a team, the Heat shot 59 percent from the field.
On the other side, Chicago has been plagued by slow starts all season and last night was no different. They came out flat and missed a ton of shots, going 9-23 from the field and only got 15 points from their starters. After the first quarter, Miami led 31-23.
In the second quarter, things tightened up a bit as the game slowed down and neither team shot the ball particularly well. James and Wade continued their hot shooting and scoring, but it was the play of Chris Bosh that was really surprising. He was having a nightmare of an evening as he went 1-6 in the quarter, was just 1-10 by halftime, and finished 1-18 in the game. After two quarters the Heat held a 9 point lead, 53-44.
The third quarter was an entirely different story.
With the exception of Dwyane Wade who continued his blistering play — as he usually does when he comes home to Chicago — the Bulls locked down on defense and gave the Heat nothing easy. Miami went 6-21 in the third quarter and scored 14 points; 10 from DWade and 4 from LBJ.
After a quiet first two quarters, Luol Deng really stepped his game up in the third. He was much more aggressive on offense as he scored 10 points after registering only 2 in the first 24 minutes, and his defense on James was exceptional as he forced him into shooting 2-6 from the field. Derrick Rose also came out aggressively scoring 12 points on 4-7 shooting and he essentially seemed to be trying to match Wade, point-for-point.
Chicago, who trailed the entire game and were down by as many as 11 points, finally grabbed their first lead over Miami with just over 3 minutes left to play as they outscored the Heat 27-14 and went into the 4th quarter with a four point lead, 71-67.
The fourth quarter was a defensive struggle and basically came down to which team was going to get a stop. It was a back-and-forth affair that could’ve gone either way and it was one of the most exciting quarters of basketball that you’ll see.
The three biggest plays of the game came from Rose who should be slowly starting to change people’s minds about his MVP legitimacy with each big game that he plays in because he shows up and rises to the occasion.
He only made 2 shots in the quarter, but both were huge and also timely.
With less than 3 minutes to play, he hit a lay-up after being guarded by LBJ on the perimeter.That shot gave Chicago a 1 point lead. His second shot came with just over a minute left in regulation when he hit a huge jump shot in front of the Heat bench (and Kanye West) while being guarded by Dwyane. That shot capped a 9-0 run, gave the Bulls a 5 point lead, and as Rose ran back to the Chicago bench after Miami called a timeout, he announced to the world, “This my shit!”
But Miami would not go away.
After the timeout, Dwyane Wade would hit a fade away which cut the lead to 3 points, and then LeBron James would score on Miami’s next possession on an and 1 play and tie the game. But DRose would come up big once again as he found himself isolated one-on-one against LeBron and drove the lane and found Luol Deng for a wide open 3-pointer that would be the dagger.
The Heat would have another another shot as LeBron would get the ball and have an opportunity to tie it on a 3-pointer, but Deng played solid defense and contested it beautifully and the shot would miss, wide right. After a free-throw by Kyle Korver, the game was iced and the Bulls would defeat Miami 93-89 and regardless of what happens when these teams meet up again on March 6th, Chicago has won the season series.
See you in the Playoffs!