LeBron James isn’t resting as the playoffs await just around the corner. While Chris Bosh got his second night off and Derrick Rose missed yet another game, the NBA’s best player dominated in an aggressive, playoff-like affair, leading the Miami Heat to a 83-72 win over the Chicago Bulls. Still hope for home court advantage.
The Bulls, 47-16, 1.5 games above the Heat, went for the Lucas-Watson point guard combo while letting Rose played. Luol Deng, who missed the previous game, got 39 minutes, maybe a bit too much for a guy who’s fitness has been shaky this season. What remains? Home against Dallas, visit to the red hot Indiana Pacers and a home against the tanking Cleveland Cavaliers.
For the Miami Heat? Currently 45-17, the Heat do have two games against Washington, home and away, with a visit from the Houston Rockets and a visit to Boston and the dreaded Celtics on the books for Miami. These garbage time games don’t mean the same thing to everyone, but at this point of the season, gaining momentum as we enter the playoffs, especially against big rivals like the Celtics, is as important as they can be.
Defense was the biggest thing about this game. Typical Eastern conference basketball, Spoelstra said after the game. One of those games when the Bulls are too painful offensively to watch. Held to 35.7% from the field while making only 2-16 from beyond the arc. The Heat simply locked down the middle of the paint as Dexter Pittman got a rare start as the non-scoring Center of the night for the Miami Heat.
As in all games of late, James was the man for Miami. He led with 27 points, adding 11 rebound and six assists. It was nice to see him playing like earlier this season, when he and Dwyane Wade were completely focused on giving up on the long ball. He made 1-2 from beyond the arc, while Wade didn’t attempt any three point shots. When these two stop relying on jumpers and just drive and drive, the Heat are a better team.
On the other hand, it’s hard to really get a true read as to what are the differences between these two teams when Derrick Rose is not playing. It’s been quiet on the Rose injury front in the last few days, but all sources say the same thing – Rose wants to start playing now, the Bulls are saving him. I don’t think he should start his reintroduction once the postseason begins. Playing against Indiana and the Cavs, in a limited edition, should benefit him.
For the Heat, it’s been Spoelstra experimenting around LeBron for the last couple of weeks. Wade got some rest, now Bosh is as well. As long as the chance of claiming home court advantage remains, it look like James won’t be getting any rest before the post season begins. After all, if there’s one player the Heat must have at his best in order to have a chance of winning the title, it’s LeBron.