The Bulls 99-96 win against the Heat came with a lot of drama and a UC crowd that got the show it begged for -- minus LeBron.
Usually strong defense is synonymous with physicality. Not so with the Heat.
In a game of loose balls, the Bulls (27-13) dominated while the Heat (30-12) constantly threatened to shoot them out of the gym. In the end, a Kyle Korver long rebound led to a quick pull-up three to ice the Bulls' eighth straight win at the United Center 96-99.
The Bulls won by shutting down the paint and maintaining a physicality that ranged from bruising to stubbornness and it helped them out-rebound Miami 42-30 where both teams shot well and generally took care of the basketball in a very excited fast-paced contest. The game held to 88 possessions only tells the story when you figure the two teams didn't get to the FT line much.
"I talked about it before the game - two hard-nosed, tough-minded teams,
it will probably come down to balls in the air or balls on the ground," Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said after the game.
"The game was decided with balls in the air."
The Bulls scored 25 second chance points to the Heat's only 10. In a game of jumpshots...
The Heat were without LeBron James, who sat out with a sprained ankle (I was so wrong that he would play), as well as without Dwyane Wade for much of the third quarter because he was a ridiculous Foul Machine and without Chris Bosh for the fourth quarter after spraining his ankle near the end of the third quarter.
This is served as excuse fodder, but the Heat were simply just not physical enough. The teams shot well, but Miami's 44.2% (34-for-77) from the field and Chicago's 46.4% (39-for-84) created no excuse to only grab 30 rebounds. At the risk of being trite: that's weak. Especially against a Bulls team missing their primary hustle-energy-screaming rebounder, Joakim Noah.
And Derrick Rose was amazing after being kind of a rockstar before the game. On why he didn't actively court LeBron James to become a Bull: "If they wanted to come here, they would've come here."
- I just want to get over Bosh being mad at Omer Asik for spraining his ankle now. After the game, he said: "If it is by somebody's leg, don't dive for the ball, it's too close."
No, Christina, when the ball is loose, you go for the damn ball. I would like to take this opportunity to request forgiveness from the basketball gods for Bosh being my #1 wish last offseason and Carlos Boozer my #2.
- Kyle Korver's heroics came on hustle that followed hustle by Boozer where he unfortunately turned his ankle. With the Bulls down 96-95, a play was drawn up for Rose. Rose missed and Boozer rolled his ankle tipping the ball to keep the ball away from Heat rebounders. He left the UC in a walking boot, said it hurts bad, will ice it, and try to play their next game on Monday. That's about all that's known at the moment.
Korver secured that rebound on the perimeter, took a quick dribble, and shot the game-winning pull-up three with 25.5 seconds remaining in the game. He finished with seven points and it was his only three of the game on four attempts. He hasn't been shooting well, but good to see he takes his green light seriously and didn't hesitate to keeping firing with a good look. After the game, he called this the "most frustrating shooting month of my life":
- The Rose-Wade show was one promising to be a matchup you'll never want to miss. Both played like heroes. D-Wade bricked some FTs and Rose didn't shoot a high percentage, but the aggressiveness and overall production of these two was awe-inspiring in that sporty kind of way.
After the game, Coach Thibodeau couldn't hide his happiness from the matchup, the excitement of the atmosphere, the pace of the game, the drama, but took a little jab at Korver not getting back on defense to secure the rebound. Of course, he wouldn't change the result. He also discussed Rose picking up on "reads," the Heat going "small," and having other players run the point on possessions with Rose on the floor. I love listening to Thibs talk basketball:
- Rose finished with game-highs in points and assists -- 34 and eight -- like an MVP. He only shot 12-for-27 from the field and 2-for-6 on threes, but pounded the inside when the Heat were employing great spacing and executing very well in the 2-3 zone. Him and his teammates forced isolation situations for Rose to exploit and it got him to the line where he shot a perfect 8-for-8.
His defense was equally aggressive. Wade did very well because that's what superstars do and the Heat's smaller shooters were knocking down threes like madmen. Rose didn't have any steals, but his three blocks with only one foul and only two turnovers showed the way this kid's basketball I.Q. is skyrocketing.
- The Heat had one the league's best three-point performances of the season... in a loss. I've noted many times that there are two ways to beat Tom Thibodeau's defense: (1) isolation and (2) excellent ball movement, allowing the ball to find a player with a good look. The Heat did (1) very well with Wade and Bosh, but really shined with (2) where they were excelled at allowing the ball to find an open man. Those open men weren't gun-shy, didn't chuck dumb shots, as the team went 13-for-28 on threes.
- Wade was a star, but bricked FTs and was a Foul Machine. He finished with a team-high 33 points on 10-for-20 shooting -- 4-for-7 on threes, nailing crucial ones int he final minutes -- but only 9-for-13 at the FT line. He airballed a three at the end of the game. He's a terrible three-point shooter, so we'll call his earlier threes variance and the airball the real real.
- The Heat had a great second quarter and bad third. In the second, they didn't stop knocking down threes and outscored the Bulls 34-20. That quarter was neutralized by a 25-17 third quarter by the Bulls, who came out of halftime on a 17-0 run, and Wade had to sit with his fourth foul.
- Omer's "hustle" did Bosh in, but helped the Bulls stay in the game. He played over 17 minutes, only had three points, but his five rebounds and his steal were almost all hustle. There was a bit of Foul Machine in him, finishing with three on the game, and I believe it's the only thing keeping him out of the starting lineup with Noah out -- even though Kurt Thomas has been adequate.
- Boozer had one of his rougher games. He only finished with 12 points on 6-for-14 shooting, but 10 rebounds -- three offensive -- and a block, playing the paint very well. Bosh had a very strong offensive stretch of 11 points over a stretch in the third quarter, but was otherwise neutralized by Boozer, Thomas, Omer, and Taj Gibson being very physical with him.
- This game was full of jumpshots. But that was because both brands of defense dominated the game outside of a handful of scoring runs. The Bulls shifted pressure toward the ball and the Heat spaced very well. The Bulls hitting 7-of-19 threes (36.8%) was big. Grabbing offensive rebounds at a 29.4% rate was beyond huge for 25 second chance points.
It was the best game I've been to in a long time. A lot of that had to do with the energy in the crowd fueled by the hype surrounding the Heat, but it made for a great basketball-watching experience. When Korver secured that rebound, everyone left their seats and a quick silence hit the house for a second. When the shot fell, the house completely erupted and gave us funny, drunk Chicago sportsfaces:
The Bulls still sit in third in the Eastern Conference behind the Heat and Celtics (30-9) with the Magic (26-14) right on their tail.
Next, the Bulls play the Grizzlies (19-21) in Memphis on Monday afternoon. The NBA always like to slate day games on holidays and this should be a very fun one. I'm a big fan of this Grizzlies team. They're in a tough spot with San Antonio, Dallas, and New Orleans in their division, but it's their fault that their defense sucks, right?
Stats via Basketball-Reference.