Just like that, LeBron reminds Bulls why he's still King
As decisions go, LeBron James made a rather large one Wednesday night, bigger than any choice he's made in about 10 months.
James made the determination that soft and bad is no way to go through life — or at least the Eastern Conference finals — and with seemingly the entire basketball world rooting against him, King James took over and ruled the fourth quarter against the Bulls.
With the Heat on the verge of going down 2-0 to a Bulls team playing suffocating defense, James scored 9 of Miami's last 12 points and led the Heat to an 85-75, series-tying victory at the UC.
"I put it all on the line tonight," said James, who has been fighting a nasty head cold since he arrived in Chicago. "I'm glad we have a few days off.
"I can't wait to get down to that nice warm weather in Miami and hopefully I'll be better before the next one."
James finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals, going 12 of 21 from the field (57 percent).
But no shot was bigger than the 3-pointer he hit with 4:28 left in the fourth that broke a 73-73 tie and put Miami ahead to stay.
"I knew I had the shot coming off the screen from (Mike) Bibby, and I didn't want to settle for that shot early in the game," James said. "But right there, that was a good shot, so I took it."
The Heat scored only 14 fourth-quarter points to 10 for the Bulls in a remarkable defensive performance by both teams, but James (9) and Dwyane Wade (3) combined for 12 of those 14.
"If you don't love watching defense in the NBA, this game wasn't for you," James said with a smile. "That's two of the best defensive teams in the NBA going at it on every possession for four quarters and you have two pretty tired teams now.
"There wasn't any space out there for anybody to get much done."
That's why rebounding was such a big part of this win for Miami. After the Bulls crushed the Heat on the boards in Game 1, Miami carried the edge in Game 2 (45-41).
It allowed the Heat to get out and run, and though the Bulls had the edge in offensive rebounds (17-10), their advantage in second-chance points (18-12) was down big from the first game (31-8).
"Rebounding is just effort. That's all it is," James said. "The Bulls are bigger than us, but rebounding isn't about size. It's about effort."
It was really about effort from Wade and James, who combined for 33 points and 9 rebounds in Game 1, and 53 points and 19 boards in Game 2.
"Me and Wade said we had to do better on the boards," James said. "We knew what was at stake."
At stake was a chance to get back in the series, and they did that with rebounding and by controlling Derrick Rose, who had 21 points on 7-of-23 shooting (30 percent).
"We just try as a team to make it tough on him," Wade said of Rose. "He's just a phenomenal basketball player and you're not going to stop him on the basketball court.
"You just have to make him work hard for what he gets."
As good as Miami played defensively — the Bulls shot 34 percent — the Bulls were still in the game with four minutes left, but they scored only 2 points in the final seven minutes.
"If anything, they closed down the lane on us," Rose said. "But that's not why we lost. I think we lost because of our intensity on defense.
"We made it too easy on them, and they have too many great players for us to let them do that."
So now the series heads to Miami with the Bulls having given up their homecourt advantage.
It's the nature of the playoff series that there's a tendency to overreact to each and every game.
After Game 1, Bulls fans thought this would be easy.
After Game 2, there will be panic in the streets.
But the reality is now both teams can settle in for what figures to be a very long series.
"Now, it starts," James said. "It's just the beginning. It's going to be long and it's going to be fun. I'm glad to be a part of it."
That's a decision the Bulls could have done without.
•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.
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