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NBA Playoffs: Heat win war of attrition, get split in Chicago

May 19, 2011, 12:15 AM EDT

Miami Heat v Chicago Bulls - Game Two Getty Images

The final box score makes it look like the Heat evened up the Eastern Conference finals with relative ease. Miami won by a final score of 85-75, the Bulls shot only 34 percent from the floor, and Derrick Rose shot 7-for-23 from the floor while LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined to score 53 points.

In reality, though, this was one of the hardest wins the Heat have had all year. The Bulls missed shots all game long, and the Heat were able to execute their offense fairly well against the league’s best defense, but the game was tied with under five minutes to play thanks to the Bulls’ relentless energy, aggression, depth, and toughness. The Bulls couldn’t buy a shot all game, but they were beating the Heat to every loose ball, forcing more turnovers, and getting second- and third-shot attempts on a regular basis.

Erik Spoelstra made a desperation move to attempt to stop the bleeding on the boards, going to Jamaal Magloire, Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem off the bench instead of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Mario Chalmers and James Jones. It worked like gangbusters. Miller and Magloire provided the size, rebounding and hustle that the Heat desperately lacked in Game 1, and Haslem had the kind of game nobody thought he’d have in these playoffs, coming back from a foot injury to record 13 points on mid-range jumpers and dunks in transition, three offensive rebounds, two assists, a steal, a block and a charge taken.

The last quarter was a knock-down, drag-out affair, as the exhausted teams combined to score only 24 points in the final period. In the end, though, the difference proved to be that the Heat had LeBron James and the Bulls did not.

With the score tied at 73 with 4:28 remaining, James drilled a 3-pointer off the dribble that ended up giving the Heat the lead for good. From there, he closed out the Bulls with ruthless efficiency, scoring nine of the Heat’s final 12 points as the Bulls only managed two points in the final seven minutes of play.

How should the Heat feel about this win? It’s hard to say. They did everything right. They kept the Bulls’ bigs from making an offensive impact, they blocked three of Rose’s shots and held him to 2-of-12 shooting from inside of the paint, and Wade and James were both able to play their games. That said, it was still an absolute battle, and the Bulls could easily have gone up 2-0 if the ball had bounced their way a few times in the final five minutes. The Heat got the game in Chicago they desperately needed, but they shouldn’t take any home wins for granted against a team that plays with the kind of energy the Bulls do.

The Heat got ambushed in Game 1. Before Game 2, Spoelstra made some major adjustments to the Heat’s sets and substitution patterns, and his gambles paid off. Now it’s Tom Thibodeau and Rose’s turn to make adjustments, and we’ll see if they’re up to the task. The Bulls’ season is simple at this point: either they win in Miami, or they go home.

  1. edweird0 - May 19, 2011 at 12:28 AM

    Now THAT’S how you close a game.

  2. anythingbutyanks - May 19, 2011 at 12:36 AM

    The Heat won 85-75, not 83-73.

  3. randommofo - May 19, 2011 at 12:45 AM

    That 4th quarter was just awful to watch

  4. andrejohnsonforpresident - May 19, 2011 at 1:58 AM

    Its crazy to see Lebron closing out these games. I mean he seems to go on fire in the last two minutes of these close games, draining some very clean 3′s and imposing his will on the other teams defense.. Its still to soon to call… But maybe Lebron’s starting to put the crown on and hes becoming that legendary player everyone expected him to be in the playoffs.

  5. rickmirer - May 19, 2011 at 2:00 AM

    Home court belongs to the Heat now, YES! The Bulls are such a good team but Miami’s talent looks like it might be enough. I’m excited for this series. This is shaping up to be an amazing playoff series. Hopefully we get seven games out of this. I want the Heat to win but I’m scared of Chicago, Rose has mad skrills.

  6. 1historian - May 19, 2011 at 7:23 AM

    This looks like something to remember. James is starting to develop a rep as a closer, and THAT is the rep to have. He looks scary good.

    • jd - May 19, 2011 at 9:58 AM

      He can only close when the opponent has already been beaten and he can get his look-at-me $WAG on.

      He’ll fold like a whiney kid when they are down by a few points in the closing minutes.

  7. gmsingh - May 19, 2011 at 8:38 AM

    If the the Heat “thrived” why were they only able to score 85 points? And why does D. Wade still look like he needs Geritol?

    • heat256 - May 19, 2011 at 9:58 AM

      You sound so bitter and scared. Heat played way better than the Bulls. The Bulls shot lights out from 3 pt land in Game 1, and that was above their average from long distance. Game 2 brought them back down to Earth. Rose has to shoot well and distribute and Deng and Boozer have to step it up. If they don’t CHI won’t move on. Simple as that. Be a man and admit this wasn’t going to be a sweep as so many people thought. It will come down to the end, and the mentally stronger team will win, period.

    • southbeachtalent - May 19, 2011 at 11:15 AM

      And the Bulls 75…

      Your point?

  8. edweird0 - May 19, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    @gmsingh Hahahaha silly hater. Must you always find something to nitpick? The heat thrived because they closed out a playoff game on the road like a veteran team does. Against the stingiest D in the entire league I might add.

  9. Milton Galfas - May 19, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    The Bulls missed shots because af a defensive buzzsaw called the Miami Heat. Who cares about the season. Miami is peaking at the right time. With Haslem they will contend against the experienced Mavs.

    • philtration - May 19, 2011 at 10:06 PM

      The Heat are peaking?
      Because they won a game after getting blown out?

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