For a game that meant nothing to the Miami Heat, there was an awful lot of meaningful pushing, shoving, and talking for it to be looked at as another regular-season game.
Not when it’s against these Chicago Bulls. Even without Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and Richard Hamilton, the Bulls were able to keep the game close until the final minutes. Even after Miami built up a 15-point lead in the second quarter, Chicago was supported by a secession of Nate Robinson jumpers to cut the halftime lead to two.
But like any other player who is going to rely on contested jumpers, Robinson went cold and the Heat remained hot to pull away for a 105-93 victory. Miami moves to 64-16 in the season and evened the season-series to two apiece with the Bulls.
LeBron James led all scorers with 24 points to go along with seven rebounds and six assists in 34 minutes of play. Despite pregame claims from coach Spoelstra that the minutes of the ‘Big Three’ would be monitored, Dwyane Wade played nearly 37 minutes to finish with 20 points on 12 shots, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals.
Chris Bosh played 31 minutes and ended with 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 blocks.
Miami led by as much as 12 midway through the first quarter and ended up dropping 30 in the first frame thanks to 11 points from Mario Chalmers and 8 from LeBron James.
The lead swelled to 46-31 with 5:16 remaining following a vicious throwdown off a cut by LeBron from a pinpoint pass by Chalmers. However, the Bulls would end the quarter on a 23-10 run, supported by Robinson’s ten points in the final 3:34.
Robinson ended up with only 14 points on 16 shots in 33 minutes. Chicago had six players score in double-figures, but only one of those players shot 50 percent or better.
Meanwhile, every Heat starter, plus Andersen, scored in double-figures and shot 51 percent as a team. They also got to the line for a season-high 41 free throw attempts, with Wade, James, and Andersen combining for 37.
Chicago took a 61-60 lead early in the third, but it was the last time they led as Miami would win the second half with a 49-39 advantage. The Bulls were held to 35 percent shooting from the field and had only 16 assists to 14 turnovers.
There was a 16-minute stretch between the third and fourth quarters where Chicago failed to make a two-point shot. In fact, they tied the all-time record for least amount of two-pointers in a third quarter with zero.
The Heat outscored the Bulls 44-24 in the paint. Chicago couldn’t save themselves with absurdly-good shooting as they did last time in the win that ended Miami’s 27-game winning streak.
Chicago had just as much trouble scoring in the fourth and a late purge was stifled by a Mike Miller three-pointer that built Miami’s lead to ten with a little more than a minute remaining.
Miller was 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.
Like seemingly every other Heat-Bulls matchup, there was a fair share of whistles being blown. A total of 57 personal fouls were committed between the two teams which resulted in a combined 72 free throws being taken.
Technical fouls were given to Chris Bosh and Bulls’ coach Tom Thibodeau. The officials missed a possible flagrant foul after James was shoved in the back mid-flight by Robinson, but made up for it with an out-of-place clear-path foul.
Although the win means nothing to the Heat in terms of playoff seeding, it might have ended up playing a large role in who Miami could end up facing in the semifinals.
Going into today, the Bulls and Atlanta Hawks were fighting it out for the fifth seed for a possible matchup with the Brooklyn Nets. The winner of the 4/5 matchup plays the winner of the 1/8 matchup.
Miami is 2-2 against the Bulls this season, and a combined 7-0 against the Hawks and Nets. Think they might have a preference of who they want to play?
Chicago is now a game back of Atlanta. They finish the season at Orlando and vs Washington, while Atlanta gets vs Toronto and at New York.
Miami, meanwhile, finishes the season off against the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday night and the Orlando Magic Wednesday. The chances are slim that Wade, James, or Bosh play in either of those contests.