So many things reminded me of Game 5 against the Boston Celtics, but it was the ending that felt so familiar. With the game tied at 73, 7:16 left on the clock, LeBron James took over. He scored 9 of the final 12 points for the Heat and played perfect defense, leading the Miami Heat to a 85-75 road win over the Chicago Bulls, tying the series at 1.
Once again, the first half was rather even. Derrick Rose didn’t get going while the rest of the Bulls played their usual part – defense, offensive rebounding, hustling, the usual. Luol Deng scored 11 points, continuing his second half form from game 1. Noah and Boozer cooperated perfectly, ruling the paint again. Dwyane Wade had a huge second quarter and despite LeBron’s slow start to the game (injury, illness, insomnia?), both kept Miami in the game and even a two point lead when the half time horn made its cameo.
At half time, the TNT guys were saying that they’d be worried if they were the Heat – they’re shooting 52% while the Bulls are around 37-38, Derrick Rose isn’t in the game and they’re still only up by two. They forgot about Miami’s vastly improved defense, they’re ability to contest the rebounds (eventually winning the battle of the boards 45-41) and the way they made adjusments defensively.
In Game 1 Rose opened the second half with a three and the Bulls never looked bad. He opened the scoring again with a long jumper, but the Heat weren’t phased by him. The addition Udonis Haslem was the ace up the Heat’s sleeve. Three offensive rebounds, hustle, defense and a few big dunks played the Taj Gibson part for the Heat in game 2. Thibodeau decided to bench Boozer despite playing better than Gibson, Miami’s defense didn’t fall apart and Derrick Rose kept missing. Eventually, the game just moved on into LeBron James’ hands, and he took over.
Derrick Rose said that it was one of those nights. Maybe, and maybe the Heat have found a way to deal with him. Rose was forcing things, finishing with 7-23, 21 points and 8 assists. The Bulls passing game stopped happening in the fourth quarter, and Rose took it on himself with bad shots. The Bulls are better than that and won’t win with one on ones. Miami are much more suited for that kind of game.
There are now four days of rest before game 3 in Miami. A bit too much, but as Chris Bosh put it – it’s better to have a long break after a win. It just feels better. After all the praises for the Bulls in Game 1, the true face of Miami’s defense with the big addition of Haslem will force Thibodeau to make some changes. He seemed to be caught unprepared last night, and his players followed with a confused and confidence-lacking performance in the second half. This can’t be all on Rose in 1 on 1 moves against James and Wade in the closing minutes. The Bulls will lose that one, and the series.