Bulls defy all odds, pull South Beach stunner
- Photos (2)
Bulls forward Carlos Boozer dunks during Monday's second half.
Nate Robinson and Joakim Noah celebrate with their Bulls teammates after defeating the Miami Heat 93-86 in Game 1 Monday.
MIAMI — With less than a minute remaining in Game 1 of this second round playoff series — the home fans staring in disbelief as the Bulls led the Heat by 2 points — Nate Robinson assessed the situation.
He was matched up against 37-year-old Ray Allen, a childhood hero and former teammate in Boston. Robinson knew what to do. He emphatically waved off a screen from Joakim Noah, blew past Allen and hit a scoop in the lane that essentially clinched the Bulls' stunning 93-86 victory over Miami at American Airlines Arena.
Since Feb. 3, the Heat is 40-1 against the rest of the NBA, but 1-2 against the Bulls.
Robinson led all scorers with 27 points and scored the Bulls' final 7, hitting the go-ahead jumper from the top of the key with 1:18 remaining. After the game, he talked about the matchup with Allen.
"I looked up to Ray for the majority of my childhood," said Robinson, a Seattle native. "He played for the Sonics. I started doing a lot of shooting drills with him. I was in Boston with him. I know Ray. But my main objective was just to attack.
"Coach always says, 'Make the bigs do their job.' If they come over and block it, they block it. I was going to be aggressive. I waved Jo off because I didn't want them to switch on the pick and roll with LeBron (James). I was like, 'No, go back and we'll see what happens here.' I ended up making the layup."
Robinson's history with Allen is significant for a different reason. They played together on the 2009-10 Celtics, Tom Thibodeau's last season there as an assistant coach. Those Celtics were the No. 4 seed in the East, then upset LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round.
No one is giving the Bulls much of a chance against Miami in this series, especially with Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and Derrick Rose still sidelined. But no one saw Boston's upset coming in 2010, either.
The Bulls tried to squelch any feelings of euphoria after this one. Another piece of relevant history is the 2011 Eastern Conference finals, when the Bulls blew out Miami in the series opener, then lost four straight.
"We've been in this situation before when we won Game 1. We were all very, very excited about it, and they ran us over," Noah said. "We felt like it was a real tight series two years ago. To be in this situation now is great, but we're not satisfied."
The Bulls accomplished plenty of their game-plan goals. They kept the score low, limited Miami's fast-break chances and won the second-chance points 17-8. They even shot more free throws.
James came alive late to finish with 24 points. But after his back-to-back 3-point plays gave the Heat a 76-69 lead — its largest of the game — with 6:34 left, he added just 3 free throws down the stretch.
Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler both knocked down 3-pointers, surrounding a Taj Gibson baseline jumper, and the Bulls pulled into an 81-80 lead with 3:42 left. After James' free throw made it 86-83, Belinelli hit another 3-pointer to tie the score with 1:59 left.
Chris Bosh (3-for-10, 9 points) missed a jumper, then Robinson took over. He hit the go-ahead jumper, drove past Allen and added 3 free throws in the final 1:18.
At the interview podium, Robinson resembled a Beverly Hills housewife with a bad collagen injection. Both lips were badly swollen after he needed 10 stitches to close a gash.
With 4:19 left in the second quarter, Robinson dove for a loose ball and James dove on top of him, smashing Robinson's head into the ground. Robinson got up bleeding and retreated to the locker room for stitches.
"Marquis Teague, every time out he's looking at me laughing," Robinson said. "When it happened, I went straight to the bathroom and looked in the mirror and was like, 'Wow.' I couldn't believe it.
"(The stitches) were the worst part. I told doc, just hurry up. I wasn't trying to rush him. But I wanted to get back out there. I think it was tied up at the half when I was getting my stitches. Coach said, 'Come out whenever you're ready. I told him, 'I'm ready now.' So we just went out and got the job done."
The Bulls know what's ahead. They'll get a better effort from Miami in Game 2. The Heat had a week off after sweeping Milwaukee in the first round and wasn't sharp.
More than any team in the NBA, though, the Bulls know Miami can be beaten.
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