There’s always something LeBron James needs to prove, and into that battle he gladly drags along the rest of the Miami Heat with him. If anyone questioned his toughness, it’s over now. If anyone thought the Miami Heat can’t play defense that simply makes their rivals look like amateurs, that’s over as well, just like their Eastern Conference semifinal series is. Well, almost is.
The Miami Heat beat the Chicago Bulls 88-65, making it 3-1, winning three consecutive games, and taking the series back to South Beach without any intent of letting it go back to the United Center. Looking like the better, more focused and accurate team from the first moment, the Heat sent Chicago to bemoan their injured players and killed off any spirit of resistance as they proved that with the current lineups, minus those injured for the Bulls, it’s not a very fair fight.
The numbers also suggest the Bulls are done. If the 38 point loss in game 2 was taken for some kind of statistical error, the Heat came too prepared for their fourth postseason meeting with a team that looked like they have the recipe to disrupt, if not beat, the Heat. Chicago couldn’t handle the amazing motion on the Heat’s defense right from the start, ending up turning the ball over 17 times, finishing with 25.7% from the field, 11.7% from beyond the arc and a new franchise low for a postseason game, scoring only 65 points.
James was on a mission. He hardly rested, playing 43 minutes despite the huge difference after the third quarter, finishing with 27 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists. He scored on the Bulls through everything: Post ups, isolation and especially in transition, as the Heat scored 29 transition points, outscoring the Bulls by 21 points in that aspect despite turning the ball over just one time less. They gave up 19 offensive rebounds, which is usually a very worrying sign, but the Bulls didn’t know what to do with the ball, getting rejected nine times, including four by Chris Bosh, scoring only 20 points in the paint.
They’re in a tough situation. They’ve had some injuries and illnesses and whatever’s going on. They don’t have their full roster, but that’s not for us to worry about. They beat a very good Brooklyn team without their full roster.
Almost everything was perfect for Miami, who made a point of taking Nate Robinson out of the game (finishing with 0-12 from the field and completely afraid to take shots at the end), except for Dwyane Wade, scoring only 6 points on 3-10 from the field. His right knee is bothering him, hitting all of his field goals in the third quarter, missing all of his attempts off of spot up and post up attempts. For now, it’s OK, but from the next round and onward, the Heat need more than just their defense, James, Bosh and the rest. They need Wade; not at his best, but certainly not at his worst.
There’s nothing that is going to take this series away from the Miami Heat, who have broken their opposition. No one is going to question their toughness, and everyone is going to fear this defense. All they need to hope for is staying healthy.