Miami does most of the slugging in Game 3
A question was posed to Tom Thibodeau the day before the Bulls-Heat series began.
If two good defenses meet some good offensive players, what kind of NBA playoff game does that translate to?
"A slugfest," the Bulls' head coach responded.
Thibodeau was proved correct in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals because this indeed was a slugfest.
The problem for the Bulls was they were out-slugged Sunday night in American Airlines Arena, and in the end Miami celebrated a basketball fest.
In what was supposed to be a battle of defenses, the Heat's was better than the Bulls' and its offense also was better than the Bulls'.
"You're going to miss shots," Bulls point guard Derrick Rose said after the Bulls missed too many. "But we call ourselves a defensive team and (Miami) shot 50 percent."
As a result the Heat recorded a 96-85 victory to go up 2-1 in the best-of seven series, with Game 4 set for Miami on Tuesday night.
To a degree both offenses should be applauded. The game started out looking like the winner would be the first team to 50 points, but each team surpassed that number in the third quarter.
As the Heat solved the Bulls' defense, only the Bulls' customary grit kept them in the game well into the fourth quarter. Even when the Heat opened a 13-point lead, the Bulls kept on keeping on.
That's the Bulls' personality, but the Heat, as coach Erik Spoelstra said, also "continued to keep on coming."
The Bulls couldn't overcome the biggest concern about them even as they were posting the league's best regular-season record: Could they score enough in the playoffs?
For a while every point by the Heat and the Bulls was precious. Most shots were contested. The transition game was like mud wrestling and the half-court game was like MMA.
During a stretch of the first quarter the ball was flying all over the place and bodies followed.
Tempers flared. Miami's Chris Bosh matched hand gestures with Taj Gibson's taunting words. Later the Bulls' Keith Bogans had to be restrained from Dwyane Wade. Joakim Noah engaged in verbal sparring from the bench and expressed an inappropriate slur.
But this wasn't dirty basketball, like the Bulls could have accused the Pacers of playing in the first round. This was just physical basketball.
Every time Rose went to the basket, he did so at his own risk as if it really was down Bloody Nose Lane.
Rose was fearless as usual. The league MVP bounced up every time he was knocked down, but the Heat did hold him to 20 points.
You know how it's often said that this guy or that guy would have to be the best player on the court for his team to win? The impression was that Rose alone would have to be the two best players on the court for the Bulls to beat the Heat.
Rose tried and was helped by the performance that a lot of Bulls backers were waiting for from Carlos Boozer.
However, Bosh's 34 points more than offset Boozer's 26, while overall the Bulls' offense couldn't offset the Heat's defense.
The Bulls and the Heat now have 48 hours to massage their aches and medicate their pains before Game 4.
"We're lucky enough to have another game on Tuesdeay," Noah said, "and we'll be ready for that."
Anticipate another slugfest.