You knew the Chicago Bulls were going to be ready to fight… Nazr Mohammed may have taken that too literally and was ejected for shoving LeBron James to the ground. Still, this is what you expected from the Bulls.
You also know LeBron James is going to get his if he wants them. And in a game where it felt like he coasted for about 45 minutes he still had 25 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists on Friday night. After a slow start he hit a deep three and got a fantastic and-1 late in the game.
But to win in the playoffs you need your second, your third options to step up, and that’s why the Heat have… Norris Cole?
It worked for one game. Cole had 18 points and hit 3-of-3 from three, plus played some solid defense. Chris Bosh had 20 points and 19 rebounds.
LeBron, Bosh and Cole made the Heat the steadier team down the stretch and helped lift the Heat to a 104-94 win in Game 3. That gives the Heat a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4 Monday in Chicago.
Despite all their efforts the Bulls just can’t slow the Heat offense — Miami had 120.6 points per 100 possessions, which is 20 points higher than the Bulls allowed on average in the regular season. Miami shot 60 percent in Game 2 and 50 percent in Game 3.
A large part of that was that the Heat attacked and with that got to the foul line 30 times, hitting 26. That’s a lot of free points. (The Bulls had 25 attempts but hit just 17.)
From the start this game had plenty of intensity, and once again that boiled over into a few technical fouls — Joakim Noah got one for shoving Chris Anderson off the top of Nate Robinson after a foul that knocked both to the ground.
LeBron was bringing the ball up in a transition and Nazr Mohammed decided to wrap LeBron up and foul him 40 feet from the basket (it was a “Euro foul” to stop the fast break, the Bulls have done that a number of times this series). LeBron pushes him off and gets a technical instantly from Joey Crawford for it. Then Mohammed comes back with the unnecessary retaliation — a two-hand shove to LeBron’s chest and knocks him down. Mohammed got the flagrant 2 ejection.
The crowd loved it. They were fired up. But the Bulls lost the guy that spells Noah and they could lose him for another game if there is a suspension coming from the league office. And if you don’t think that mattered watch the more tired Noah not be quite quick and energetic enough to make plays during the Heat’s late run.
Chicago got offensive balance with all five starters in double figures, led by Carlos Boozer’s 21.
This game was back and forth most of the way — it was 85-83 Heat with 4:00 left — but the Heat executed better down the stretch.
Cole had a driving lay-up and later a key three. Bosh was sinking free throws, blocking a Marco Belinelli shot, and hitting a driving layup off a cut. LeBron hit a deep pull-up three, then hit an and-1 where the Bulls played it perfectly with Jimmy Butler pushing LeBron to help, the help was there and it didn’t matter. Because LeBron does that. Combine that with the made free throws and it was too much.
This is what we expected from the series — the Bulls would scrap and put up a fight but it would just not be enough.
But you know the Bulls will show up ready to go hard again in Game 4