HEAT 89 - Bulls 93 Recap

In the first quarter, the Miami HEAT were at their best, forcing the Chicago Bulls into misses and turnovers, using the resulting transition opportunities to create layups and dunks.

The HEAT led, 31-23.

In the second quarter, those fast-breaks opportunities slowed down, as they always do. The HEAT didn’t have their offensive execution to fall back on, but their defense maintained, preventing Derrick Rose from gathering momentum.

The HEAT led, 53-44.

The third quarter was just like the first quarter, flipped on end in favor of Chicago. The HEAT’s offense was at a standstill, and now the turnovers were theirs, with the fast-break points against them. They lost the quarter by 13, and trailed by four headed into the final period.

For two teams that combined to shoot under 41 percent, the fourth quarter was more of the same, playoff-worthy half-court defense. Miami’s offense, with Chris Bosh in the midst of a 1-of-18 night – many misses on open jumpers at the elbow – and the bench struggling (two points), never clicked. But they chipped away all the same, diving to the rim for free-throw after free-throw.

In a stretch beginning with eight minutes to play in the fourth, the HEAT went on a 13-3 run, with eight of those points coming off freebies from Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. At run’s end, Miami was up four with as many minutes to play.

Then it was Chicago’s turn, and it turned in a 9-0 run, culminating in a long pullup jumper from Rose that put the HEAT down five with just over a minute left.

Miami responded with a tough turnaround jumper from Dwyane Wade, followed by James stopping Rose on one end and scoring on him in transition on the other. All tied with 36 seconds to go.

James stuck Rose again on the following possession, but when Wade shaded to the paint to provide help, Rose kicked out to the left corner, where Deng was waiting to drill the game-deciding three.

The HEAT lost, 89-93. And the takeaway was simple: both teams played exceptional, under one point-allowed-per-possession defense, and neither team made a significant run until that defense created easy opportunities.

“It was a defensive game by both sides,” Erik Spoelstra said. “We didn't play well in that third quarter and allowed them back in. It gave them life and they came back.

“Our lack of defensive discipline on a few plays was the difference. In a tough game like this we showed a lack of discipline too often and then paid for it. It was a great defensive effort except for some plays in the fourth quarter that we gave up giving them open looks that made the difference.”

It was a game decided on great players making great plays, with a hat tip to Chicago’s bench, without Rose or Carlos Boozer, not only holding but building a lead in the first five minutes of the fourth. But when field goals were at a premium, the HEAT could not overcome one of its anchors, the man who acts as a facilitator and safety valve in a number of Miami’s sets, shooting 1-for-18.

In historical context, Bosh’s night may have been the worst shooting night in the NBA in the last 25 years. Since 1986-87, only two players have ever shot 1-of-17, and nobody has ever made one or fewer field goals with 18 or more attempts. Even considering Bosh’s solid defensive effort, those 16 possessions without points – many of them well-run high pick-and-rolls – were just too much.

“There's no way you can recoup [Bosh] tonight,” James said. “He didn't have it going. All the shots he usually makes and that he's made all season, he just didn't have the touch tonight.

“It's like Boozer going 1-for-18 on their side. It's hard to recoup that.”

As easy as it is to see the negative in the shooting numbers, consider that they were so historic, the idea of them ever happening again, much less against Chicago in the playoffs, is quite rare. And more important than anything else, Bosh kept shooting right down to the final minutes, and the HEAT kept giving him the ball.