Miami Heat Take Commanding 3-1 Series Lead Behind Defensive Effort

Just when you thought the Miami Heat couldn’t embarrass the Chicago Bulls any further, they prove once again that they are as unpredictably efficient as any team in the league.

The Bulls have put in their best effort, but the mask has been pulled off. Their disguise of being able to stay in games through sheer effort and heart, combined with defensive discipline and low-percentage shots falling, could only keep their true identity hidden for so long.

It all fell apart in Game 4. In front of a late-arriving United Center crowd, the Heat put together one of their best defensive efforts in franchise history with an 88-65 victory.

The Heat held Chicago to a franchise postseason record nine points in the third quarter. It was the lowest point total in a quarter for the Bulls in franchise history.

Chicago was held to 26 percent shooting overall and 19 percent (2-of-17) from beyond the arc. Nate Robinson led the way for the disaster with a statistical abortion in the form of 0-for-12 shooting (0-of-5 from deep).

Miami was led by LeBron James’ 27 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds and 2 steals. Chris Bosh, who finished with 6 rebounds and 4 blocks, was the only other Heat player with at least 10 points, dropping in 14. He started off the day making 7 of his first 8 shots.

The Heat only got 6 points on 10 shots from Dwyane Wade, who still doesn’t have the look of someone who can be healthy enough to contribute in a significant way come NBA Finals time.

Miami didn’t need him tonight, though. Chicago made the first basket of the game and it would be the last time they’d see a lead as Miami would run off the next 11 points to put the game out of reach.

The Bulls would never get closer than the six-point deficit they faced going into the second quarter. Miami would open up a 13-point lead early in the second behind three consecutive possessions of three points; a Chris Andersen and-one, Shane Battier three-pointer, Ray Allen three-pointer.

Those three possessions represented the best sequence of consistent offense for the next 24 minutes. Although Miami would deal with their own problems, the Bulls were as bad as they’ve ever been.

Basically, it was the offense we have come to know from Chicago meeting up with the defensive we have come to know from Miami. Chicago gave their best shot in Game 3, brought Miami down to the game they wanted to play and still lost by ten.

Game 5 won’t be any different. Chicago may have Luol Deng returning, he was active for the first time this series, but he’ll only be taking minutes away from Jimmy Butler, who has arguably been Chicago’s best player this series.

Yeah, it’s been that bad. And it didn’t get much worse than a third quarter that featured the Bulls scoring nine points and making two field-goals. Miami forced the Bulls into jumpers throughout the quarter, and the night, holding them to 20 points in the paint overall.

Robinson continued an unfathomably bad run of shooting missing all 11 of his shots, scoring absolutely nothing and ultimately proving that 28-foot, off-the-dribble three-pointers and 25-foot floaters is not a sustainable method of consistent offense.

Color me surprised. Can you believe the NBA gave the guy a commercial?

Nazr Mohammed and his 1-of-1 shooting represented the only player Chicago had to make at least 50 percent of their shots. Carlos Boozer’s 14 points (3-of-14) led Chicago.

Miami wasn’t perfect, but they showed that they are clearly better than this depleted and decimated Bulls team, which is something we should have known already. Even with 6-of-18 shooting from beyond the arc, Miami winning this game was never in doubt.

Norris Cole continued to contribute nicely off the bench, finishing with 7 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds in 21 minutes, 30 seconds. The Heat bench was led by Chris Andersen’s 9 points and 4 rebounds.

The Heat flirted with the possibility of having two wins of 30-plus points this series. They were up by as much as 26 before pulling the starters and allowing Chicago to score enough to avoid a complete travesty of a performance.

How did Miami lose Game 1 at home? Better yet, how did the Brooklyn Nets lose four times to this team?

Heart and grit can only take you so far.

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