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NBA Playoffs: Heat complement their star power with depth, take Game 4

May 25, 2011, 1:39 AM EDT

Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat - Game Four Getty Images

The Chicago Bulls finished with a better regular-season record than the star-studded Miami Heat for two reasons: superior depth and better play in close games. On Tuesday night, the Heat flipped the script on the Bulls, and took a commanding 3-1 series lead thanks to superior depth and late-game execution.

All season long, the Bulls have worn down opponents thanks to their endless array of effective role players and defenders; Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, Taj Gibson, and C.J. Watson were just as important to the Bulls’ success as anything else was.

The Heat, meanwhile, looked painfully thin for most of the year. Udonis Haslem missed nearly the entire season with foot injuries, thumb injuries and hesitant play kept Mike Miller from being effective all season long, Mario Chalmers was inconsistency incarnate, and the Heat’s three seven-footers have all spent most of the playoffs on the inactive list.

On Tuesday, with Wade having one of the worst games of his career, LeBron being forced to work for every single point or assist, and Bosh being shut down by Joakim Noah and smart Chicago double-teams, the Heat had to rely on their bench to save them. Remarkably, they did.

Mike Miller was an insane +36 in 26 minutes, and had what can only be considered a renaissance game. He finally stopped hesitating on the court, and started doing what he’s always done best — make jump shots. In a classic case of “don’t think, just shoot,” Miller showed no hesitation on his jump shot, draining two catch-and-shoot threes and three mid-range jumpers millseconds after he caught the ball. One of his made jumpers was a step-back off the dribble, which shows just how high Miller’s confidence was — he only took a handful of those shots in the entire regular season, let alone made any.

Mario Chalmers never lacks for confidence, and the mercurial guard came off the bench to score nine quick points and snag four steals, providing a needed boost of energy. Udonis Haslem didn’t score a single point, but his rebounding and defense were invaluable, and the Heat were +25 in his 34 minutes.

Chicago’s bench, meanwhile, failed to provide the spark it usually does. Kyle Korver’s shot remains missing, Taj Gibson went scoreless with one rebound in 10 minutes, and a leg injury limited Omer Asik to only two minutes of play. Without their stellar bench there to spell them effectively, the Chicago starters were forced to play 44+ minutes apiece, and the fatigue eventually became to much for them as the game wore on.

Miami’s bench players were the ones who kept the team alive through most of the game, but it was the team’s superstars that sealed the deal. LeBron James scored or assisted on 10 of Miami’s 22 fourth-quarter points, and his defense on Derrick Rose late was key down the stretch. Chris Bosh drew a key flagrant foul with just under five minutes to play, and made the last field goal of regulation on a jumper with 1:14 remaining and the Heat trailing by a point.

In overtime, the big 3 accounted for all 16 of Miami’s points, and Wade added two blocks and a steal in the extra period. It was a close game, it was an ugly game, it was the kind of game Chicago wanted, but they simply weren’t able to hold off Miami’s Big 3 when the game was on the line.

Now Chicago will have to win three games in a row to survive the Heat and move onto The Finals. The series isn’t over yet — Chicago only has to win one road game to survive, and their losses have all been competitive — but it looks like the Heat’s mixture of star power and their unlikely depth and ability to close out tough games may prove to be too much for Chicago in this series

  1. Justin - May 25, 2011 at 1:49 AM

    Did Lebron flick a secret clutch switch or something. He has been on this whole series. Have to say it has caught me off guard. I really didn’t think the Heat would stand a chance with Wade having an off game but the bench stepped up. Exciting game to watch. I think we are seeing some Rose growing pains. If the Heat do knock them out he will come back even stronger next year. (Check out my sports blog by clicking my name. If you don’t wanna just don’t click it)

  2. david8726 - May 25, 2011 at 1:57 AM

    LeBron has always been clutch. He had a bad regular season this year at the end of games, but throughout his career he’s been good.

    Remember those game winners against Washington earlier in his career? How about when he scored 20+ points in a row for Cleveland in the 4th quarter and overtime against the Pistons in game 5 of the East finals in 2007? What about the three at the buzzer to win game 3 against Orlando in 2009? There are plenty more that I’m not thinking of.

    The only difference between LeBron then and LeBron now is that he has all-star caliber help at his side for the first time in his career, and that’s allowing him to beat elite-level teams. There’s a big difference between playing with D-Wade as your side kick as opposed to Mo Williams.

  3. dgbk - May 25, 2011 at 2:05 AM

    good for lebron i remeber all the “pippen” talk when he 1st signed to the heat…..he is the main reason they’re moving on, well him and bosh… wade has been pretty avg

  4. bittersonicsfan - May 25, 2011 at 2:07 AM

    Justin

    Enough with blog flogging already, we get it.

    It was great to see Miller have a good game. He’s been down his luck lately and he needed that game. It’s amazing what Pat Riley had visioned finally come together. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

    LeBron on Derrick Rose was cash money. He shadowed Rose better than anyone has been able to do all year. And that possession the Bulls had at the end of overtime when Wade swatted Rose and insanity ensued was hustle majesty.

    Steve Kerr and Reggie Miller are going to have fun picking all those pubes out of their mouths when the Heat close out the Bulls. Those two are the furthest thing from objective, it’s gotten irritating.

  5. musilly - May 25, 2011 at 3:25 AM

    While I normally don’t like the “sports is like life” line, it’s a series like this that makes it seem appropriate.

    I don’t have a horse in this race so don’t read this as my making excuses for the Bulls. It’s just funny to think how fragile the Heat victory in this one was. This was tight. If the big Turk doesn’t get hurt, if calls go a little differently, certain shots don’t spin out, etc.–any number of small things could’ve changed the result.

    But those things didn’t happen and the Heat took this and will probably take the series. Years from now we’ll be watching highlights and some old dude with a gravelly voice with speak very dramatically about the virtues of the Heat. It could very easily have turned out to be otherwise!

    • rickperez473 - May 25, 2011 at 7:46 AM

      Isn’t this how 98% of basketall games are? How many blowouts are there is playoffs? Isn’t it how you react to those injuries, fouls, and missed shots that makes the difference? You can either go the “woe is me” route and blame those things or use them for motivation. The Heat was down by at least 8 points a couple of times, even in the last few minutes. Blaming calls and injuries and (forced) bad shots is exactly what you’re saying they’re not…excuses.

      • hnirobert3 - May 25, 2011 at 9:17 AM

        Boston is renting out their excuse machine to Chicago for a low flat rate.

    • miami4allday - May 25, 2011 at 12:59 PM

      @ Musilly yeah you could say the same thing about game one. If the Bulls dont score 31 points off of 19Offensive Rebounds that game could have easily gone the other way also. Too many IFS in your post, you are making excuses for them! You might not have a horse, but you sure do sound like a Heat Hater.

  6. fern361mia - May 25, 2011 at 4:24 AM

    Lj is not doing anything diffrent . The only diffrence from clevand and mia is Wade. Plain and simple he has help.Like spo said I dint ask when it was time to switch on rose, he just steped up. Switch being the key word one two punch. Wades the jab LJ is the knock out punch. Bring on the german we going rocky on that ass.

  7. borderline1988 - May 25, 2011 at 8:39 AM

    Everyone keeps talking about how tired Chicago’s players were at the end f the game.
    But the guy who played the most in this game? Lebron with over 49 minutes.

    Lebron’s conditioning must be out of this world. He seemed to have at least as much energy in overtime as in the first quarter. And he was playing hard defense the entire game (and against Rose in much of the 4th quarter and all of overtime).
    This might be the biggest reason why Lebron and the Heat have been executing and beating their opponents late in games.
    Incredible that a 6″8 forward who probably weighs 265 pounds is by far and away the most fit player on the court.

    • southbeachtalent - May 25, 2011 at 8:48 AM

      I was commenting the samething yesterday to my friends. The guy is a freak.

    • hnirobert3 - May 25, 2011 at 9:04 AM

      Wade’s best season, which was 2 years ago (after the Olympics) when he came in 3rd in MVP voting and won the scoring title, was because he conditioned with LeBron during the off season. This past offseason was crazyness for all of them. Hopefully LeBron gets both Wade and Bosh in the gym in the offseason to up their games even higher.

  8. southbeachtalent - May 25, 2011 at 8:42 AM

    Incredible game, the Bulls played great defense. But as the article states the Bulls starters were tired in overtime. As I stated before the Bulls rely heavily on Rose and even though he is great he needs some consitent help. He is too young to put this whole team on his back and take them to the Finals. Not yet atleast. Even though it was ugly and tough we’ll take it.

  9. hnirobert3 - May 25, 2011 at 9:00 AM

    Amazing game last night. LeBron is the best player in the world. Period. Rose is great, but a certain poster here (ME) called it before the playoffs even started: a steady rotation of Chalmers, LeBron and Wade will contain Rose. That’s not a bad thing on him, but when you have 2 of the best defenders EVER on you (with one of them being 6’8″), as well as an energy guy off the bench and no legitimate 2nd scoring option who can create his own shot… well, it’s just too much. He’s better than Allen Iverson, but it’s the same thing that doomed AI’s 76ers teams.

    I can’t wait until we hear the following: “Dallas will win the series since they have more depth,” just like we heard with Chicago and Boston. Lebatard said it best: when you have 3 of the four best players on the court, you’re going to win.

    And now, after a horrible season, Mike Miller is making open shots…

    In Riley I Trust.

  10. delius1967 - May 25, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    Rose misses two shots in the last 30 seconds to win the game, the second one an airball. Nowitzki goes 4-4 and scores 12 in the last five minutes to steal a win from the Thunder. So why is Rose the MVP, again?

  11. torotrigger - May 25, 2011 at 10:06 AM

    Lebron dominated on both ends of the court and got in Drose’s head early on – with the bulls focused on stopping Bosh, miller and chalmers were free to shoot and they did. I was glad to see miller finally found his stroke and chalmers made some very nice defensive plays all game. Glad to see that 3-man bench show up… And wade! Wow that block he had more than made up for only having 8 points deep into the last minutes of the 4th quarter.

    Great game – marquee win – series oooooooooovah

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