The first half was close. In fact, the first quarter was scary. The Heat started off generating all kinds of fast break points, getting out in transition, getting offensive rebounds. All of the things Chicago needed to do to stay in the game, the Heat were doing even better.
The Bulls turned it around in the second quarter. They stopped Miami's transition game. They stopped Miami's offensive rebounding. They started to come back behind the strength of their depth. The game was still close, as the Bulls shooting was average, and Miami still hit shots, but the fundamentals started to shift.
Then the third quarter happened
The Bulls defense swarmed. The Bulls dominated the glass. Miami scored just 15 points, and the Bulls, behind Derrick Rose's hot three point shooting, scored 24. The Heat started to feel the pressure. The pressure that I openly wondered whether or not they could recover from. The pressure they haven't felt in quite some time...
And they folded.
The Bulls dominated the fourth quarter. When Miami tried to go on a run, the Bulls answered. When Miami missed, Chciago threw down more points. A solid lead turned into a rout. The Heat left the court with plenty of questions and few answers.
Derrick Rose wasn't even at his best, nor did he need to be
I think that has to be the scariest thing for the Heat. Rose was 10-22 for 28 points. He shot the ball well from the outside, but otherwise had a fairly nondescript game relative to what he's done in much of these playoffs. He only had six assists vs four turnovers.
While he certainly still keyed the Bulls offensive attack, he's played much better in these playoffs in other games. He has considerable upside to his performance tonight. Miami hasn't seen Rose's best punch in the playoffs yet.
Joakim Noah most definitely does not need to buy a dog
Don't worry about his 4/14 shooting night, many of his misses were on tips that went down as offensive rebounds and a miss. For that reason, his 8 offensive rebounds are also a bit inflated, but he did really hurt the Heat on the glass and at the end, when Miami needed big rebounds, Joakim Noah was there making sure they didn't get them.
However, his work on the glass, while commendable, wasn't his biggest contribution. Joakim's defense just crushed what the Heat wanted to do. He even defended Wade in isolation and came up with a block as Wade could not lose him off the dribble. Joakim's shown he can defend anyone on the floor. His quick rotations and energy dominated this game.
When Luol Deng makes his threes, this team is tough to beat
Deng was 4/6 from beyond the arc, and at a point where his overall shooting percentage wasn't so high, Deng managed to hit all the majority of the long ones.
However, while his 21 points of offense were big, his defense on LeBron was bigger. Now Deng didn't hold LeBron down on an island by himself. He had plenty of help, but his defense at the point of attack is so fundamentally strong that it makes it extremely difficult for LeBron to split the double team when it comes or to get off an easy look.
LeBron's going to play better in this series than he did tonight, but for one night, Luol Deng dominated the SF matchup on both ends of the court.
Carlos Boozer is coming around
He's still a bit limited, but he hurt the Heat on the glass and managed to score 14 on 5/10 shooting. He's stepping up to give the Bulls a nice offense and did a nice job finishing off interior passes.
Who knows if the Bulls get more from Boozer or not. He's definitely not at his regular season best, but he's playing much better than he was earlier in the season and is providing efficient offense for the team again.
Return of the Bench Mob
The Bench Mob didn't play much against Indy, and they didn't always play much against Atlanta until the end. However, the bench mob is back into their more normal rotation, and the Bulls depth was a huge factor. Omer Asik was great despite a couple of 'bad hands' turnovers. He even defended LeBron well off an iso (though LeBron hit a contested three, Asik stopped his dribble penetration twice and forced a contested three).
Taj Gibson just beasted Miami. He had both of the highlight dunks of the night with an incredible two handed stuff over Dwyane Wade on a fast break pass from C.J. Watson, and a wicked tomahawk putback jam off a C.J. Watson missed three near the end of the game.
Ronnie Brewer is defending at a high level again, and the Bulls had so much depth in terms of defense against LeBron and Wade because of the hard work of Deng, Brewer, and Bogans, that the Heat's star players just looked worn out by the end of the game.
Can the Bulls hold LeBron and Wade into check this well again?
They combined for just 33 points, and they also combined for eight TOs. The Bulls swarmed them and stopped the isolation oriented offense, and the Heat didn't adjust well enough to move the ball around.
I'm not sure that the Bulls can do this to LeBron and Wade again, but I am pretty sure that Chris Bosh doesn't have another 30 point game in this series. That's the beauty of this game.
In the end, it came down to hustle points
The Bulls had 19 offensive rebounds to the Heat's six. They forced more turnovers and got to more loose balls. They simply played at a much higher energy level, and outside of LeBron and Wade, had so much more athleticism on the floor that Miami simply couldn't cope.
I couldn't be more proud of this team than I am tonight. They came into this game, perhaps a must-win game, and they just took it to the Heat in all phases of the game. They made the Heat look like they were buying their own hype too much.
I even loved the post-game attitude where the Bulls were fairly stoic about their big win, knowing that they're going to get a better effort from Miami. Knowing that LeBron's probably not going to be held to 15 next game, and Dwaye Wade probably eclipses 18 as well.
One game in, and Chicago has made a statement to their doubters, including myself. Now let's see what they do in game two.