With Rose missing in action tonight, no one expected the Bulls to be able to complete with the favorites for the NBA championship this year, the Miami Heat. Well, they did more than that. Despite 35 from Lebron James and 36 from Dwyane Wade, a steady bench effort helped the Bulls get the win. All of the Bulls players scored at least two points in this match-up.
By the half, Miami Heat’s big three combined for 40 of their 42 points. Lebron James got off to a fast start to open the game and couldn’t be slowed down until rookie Jimmy Butler came in and forced Lebron into some tough shots. For the second game in a row, Butler has stepped up and done a great job against a great offensive player.
The Bulls built their lead in the second quarter, with the Bulls bench outscoring the Heat bench by 24. Taj Gibson picked up where he left off last game, hitting his first two jump shots and a huge slam dunk in the lane. Him and Asik restored a lot of what Bulls have been missing out of their bench mob lately, with their great defense. Kyle Korver and John Lucas hit went 4-4 from three and perhaps most impressively John Lucas III took a charge against Lebron James in transition, one on one. Despite taking a 15 point lead at the 2:35 mark, the Heat – fuelled by Lebron James’ 20 points – cut it to eleven. The highlight of the move fun half I’ve watched the Bulls play all year, you ask? ferocious poster-slam by Joakim Noah on Joel Anthony. Look for it on YouTube tomorrow morning.
Despite the Heat’s best efforts to come back in the third quarter, after cutting the Bulls lead to only four, the Bulls managed to rally back through the efforts of John Lucas III and Ronnie Brewer. The Bulls built their biggest lead of the game at 17 after Watson hit a jumper at the free throw line, but again, the Heat rallied back and cut the lead down to eleven again.
Jimmy Butler checked in during the fourth quarter and provided a nice spark for the Bulls, hitting a timely jumper but the story of the fourth quarter was John Lucas III. The Heat rallied behind 16 fourth quarter points from Dwyane Wade, but John Lucas III answered the call every time. The Heat again managed to cut the lead to just four, but an offensive rebound at the 19 second mark turned this game in to a free throw shooting contest, and despite two clutch threes from James Jones, that’s where the game was decided.
The difference: This one’s easy. John Lucas III. In a game that the Bulls would be desperate for scoring, John Lucas III stepped up and had 24 points off 12 shots, including timely fourth quarter daggers.
Final Score: Bulls 106 – Heat 102