X-Men: Bulls swarm Heat
Before this series began, people talked about things like whether Miami's Chris Bosh, who played one of the worst games in NBA history at the United Center this season, could be an X-factor in the Eastern Conference finals.
It doesn't work like that. Bosh actually played well in Sunday's series opener, scoring 30 points. But he's also part of flawed system when the Heat handles itself the way it did in Game 1.
The Bulls had about seven or eight X-factors on the floor working together. It added up to an impressive 103-82 victory and a 1-0 series lead.
"We haven't proven anything," Bulls center Joakim Noah said in the locker room. "It's funny because now all of a sudden we proved something, but less than 5 hours ago, people thought we didn't have a chance to win the series."
So Miami had its chemistry figured out after 82 games and two playoff series? Maybe not.
The Heat might need a refresher course in team basketball. Step 1 is share the ball. Three guys taking turns dribbling out the clock before hoisting a shot won't get it done.
Even when Dwyane Wade (18 points) and LeBron James (15) tried driving to the basket, they were still easy to guard because they kept playing one-on-however many Bulls defenders decided to come and help.
There were many telltale stats after this one, but maybe the biggest was the Bulls' 23-11 lead in assists. Miami's Power Trio never tried to get anyone else involved. The stars just took turns doing things themselves.
"We're just trying to pull in and let them see a lot of jerseys," guard Ronnie Brewer said. "It was a conscious effort to give them multiple looks, guys playing toward them and making them go 1-on-2 or 1-on-3."
Among the other impressive numbers for the Bulls were outscoring Miami 55-34 in the second half, building a 31-8 lead in second-chance points and committing just 1 turnover after halftime.
Derrick Rose led the way with 28 points, while Luol Deng turned in one of the great performances in Bulls playoff history. He finished with 21 points, 7 assists, 4 steals, hit 4-of-6 shots from 3-point range and held James to just 15 points.
Miami had been averaging 30 free throw attempts per game in the playoffs. The Bulls cut that in half on Sunday.
"I think we're doing a good job of helping each other," Carlos Boozer said. "Whoever's guarding the ball, they have a tough job. They've got to try to stay in front of them. The rest of us show our help and not give them too many seams and too many lands because they've got a lot of good one-on-one players on their team."
This game began much like the Feb. 24 game, when Bosh was a putrid 1-for-18 from the field. The Heat actually got off to a fast start in both contests.
On Sunday, Wade and James opened the scoring with fastbreak dunks and the Heat opened an early 19-11 lead. The Bulls evened the score at 25-25 early in the second quarter when Taj Gibson threw down a monster dunk over Wade and added a 3-point play.
The Heat took its final lead at 58-57 with 7:35 left in the third quarter. That's when the Bulls defense really started to clamp down. They outscored the visitors 15-5 through the end of the quarter and led by 9 heading into the fourth.
A James 3-pointer kept Miami within 74-66 two minutes into the final quarter, then the Bulls put things away with a 9-0 run. C.J. Watson capped it with a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to send the Bulls to an 83-66 advantage with eight minutes left.
"We did a good job making sure they're seeing bodies when they went to the lane," Rose said. "We were just hustling."
The Heat players might be seeing multiple defenders in their sleep the next two nights, but this series has just begun.
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