LeBron James didn’t need Dwyane Wade this time. James scored 35 points, shut down Dwyane Wade and did everything and anything needed to get the Miami Heat closer to the NBA finals with the 101-93 overtime win over the Chicago Bulls, taking a 3-1 lead. The X-Factor? Mike Miller with 12 points and a +/- of +36!!
The moment Derrick Rose decided to give up on driving to the basket and try and win the game by shooting to fade aways against LeBron James, the Chicago Bulls lost. LeBron James took it on himself to stop Rose in the clutch and win the game, again. Wade finally waking up in overtime helped a lot as well. The Miami Heat have an answer for everything Chicago did. The Game 1 blowout is long gone, and the Heat are one win away from the NBA Finals.
In the end, it looked like exhaustion, leading to poor decision making, like Luol Deng’s inbound pass that turned into another Heat turnover. The Bulls’ depth and bench weren’t a factor (Taj Gibson 0 points) while the Heat got 12 from Mike Miller and nine from Mario Chalmers. Still, the Bulls had the least for most of the way. A steadier hand from the line by Rose and Boozer and we’d be talking about a 2-2 series, heading back to Chicago. The Bulls failed when it mattered the most, and Derrick Rose pointed the finger at himself.
Defenses won this game. James, Wade and Joel Anthony combined for 10 blocks while Mario Chalmers added 4 steals. As James said after the game, the Heat do struggle on offense at times, but they get through those rough patches with amazing defense. Thibodeau kept changing with Boozer and Gibson, one giving him offense and the sub giving him defense. I think the constant subbing hurt the Bulls.
The Bulls settled for too many outside shots, deterred by a few blocks. You have to keep pounding the paint, keep driving inside. It’ll get you fouls. Noah and Boozer are great on the offensive board when the guys aren’t spread out. The Bulls shot 6-24 from three, with Rose on a horrendous 1-9. Miami chose to shoot from the inside. It became easier and easier as the Bulls’ players wore down. They shot 5-13 from three, none of those by James and Wade. The also shot 16 more free throws than the Bulls.
I don’t know if Chicago are broken, but they’re close to it, I’m pretty sure. This was the first time this season the Bulls have lost three consecutive games. They can’t stop LeBron James. They haven’t found a way for Rose to shake off James when its do or die time. Maybe it’s Thibodeau’s X’s and O’s, maybe its the guys escaping from big shots they don’t want to take. Maybe Rose feels that as the MVP he has to win these games with stagnant isolation plays that don’t really lead anywhere. The Bulls don’t need a miracle, but they need to dig deep, dig deep hard, and find something they haven’t shown yet in these series. I’m not sure they have it.