NBA Playoffs: Heat complement their star power with depth, take Game 4

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The Chicago Bulls finished with a better regular-season record than the star-studded Miami Heat for two reasons: superior depth and better play in close games. On Tuesday night, the Heat flipped the script on the Bulls, and took a commanding 3-1 series lead thanks to superior depth and late-game execution.

All season long, the Bulls have worn down opponents thanks to their endless array of effective role players and defenders; Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, Taj Gibson, and C.J. Watson were just as important to the Bulls’ success as anything else was.

The Heat, meanwhile, looked painfully thin for most of the year. Udonis Haslem missed nearly the entire season with foot injuries, thumb injuries and hesitant play kept Mike Miller from being effective all season long, Mario Chalmers was inconsistency incarnate, and the Heat’s three seven-footers have all spent most of the playoffs on the inactive list.

On Tuesday, with Wade having one of the worst games of his career, LeBron being forced to work for every single point or assist, and Bosh being shut down by Joakim Noah and smart Chicago double-teams, the Heat had to rely on their bench to save them. Remarkably, they did.

Mike Miller was an insane +36 in 26 minutes, and had what can only be considered a renaissance game. He finally stopped hesitating on the court, and started doing what he’s always done best — make jump shots. In a classic case of “don’t think, just shoot,” Miller showed no hesitation on his jump shot, draining two catch-and-shoot threes and three mid-range jumpers millseconds after he caught the ball. One of his made jumpers was a step-back off the dribble, which shows just how high Miller’s confidence was — he only took a handful of those shots in the entire regular season, let alone made any.

Mario Chalmers never lacks for confidence, and the mercurial guard came off the bench to score nine quick points and snag four steals, providing a needed boost of energy. Udonis Haslem didn’t score a single point, but his rebounding and defense were invaluable, and the Heat were +25 in his 34 minutes.

Chicago’s bench, meanwhile, failed to provide the spark it usually does. Kyle Korver’s shot remains missing, Taj Gibson went scoreless with one rebound in 10 minutes, and a leg injury limited Omer Asik to only two minutes of play. Without their stellar bench there to spell them effectively, the Chicago starters were forced to play 44+ minutes apiece, and the fatigue eventually became to much for them as the game wore on.

Miami’s bench players were the ones who kept the team alive through most of the game, but it was the team’s superstars that sealed the deal. LeBron James scored or assisted on 10 of Miami’s 22 fourth-quarter points, and his defense on Derrick Rose late was key down the stretch. Chris Bosh drew a key flagrant foul with just under five minutes to play, and made the last field goal of regulation on a jumper with 1:14 remaining and the Heat trailing by a point.

In overtime, the big 3 accounted for all 16 of Miami’s points, and Wade added two blocks and a steal in the extra period. It was a close game, it was an ugly game, it was the kind of game Chicago wanted, but they simply weren’t able to hold off Miami’s Big 3 when the game was on the line.

Now Chicago will have to win three games in a row to survive the Heat and move onto The Finals. The series isn’t over yet — Chicago only has to win one road game to survive, and their losses have all been competitive — but it looks like the Heat’s mixture of star power and their unlikely depth and ability to close out tough games may prove to be too much for Chicago in this series

Watch Bulls coach Jim Boylen get bowled over by Denver’s Torrey Craig

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Chicago Bulls head coach Jim Boylen received a raise as part of the team deciding he deserved additional compensation after moving up from an assistant position.

Of course, what Boylen probably didn’t expect when he took the head job was to literally be in a more vulnerable position on the floor.

During Thursday night’s game against the Denver Nuggets, Boylen was it standing on the sidelines in front of his bench when an errant pass from Nikola Jokic sent Torrey Craig hurdling into Boylen.

Via Twitter:

Everyone appeared to be okay after the collision, but even still it feels like with the way things have gone for Boylen in Chicago, this could only happen to him.

Charles Barkley isn’t buying Kyrie Irving’s apology to LeBron James (VIDEO)

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Kyrie Irving made headlines on Wednesday night when he won the game for the Boston Celtics against the Toronto Raptors, then proceeded to call LeBron James to apologize about how he treated the Los Angeles Lakers star when the two were on the Cleveland Cavaliers together.

To many, the move seemed like a quick maturation of Irving as well as a surprising about face by the shifty point guard. Even LeBron thought that Irving calling him was out of character, saying as much to media on Wednesday.

However, some saw Irving’s comments and actions a little bit differently. Speaking on Inside the NBA on TNT on Thursday, Charles Barkley said that he felt Irving’s conversation with LeBron was actually a swipe at his current Celtics teammates.

Via Twitter:

To be fair, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst expressed a similar sentiment to Barkley’s on “The Jump” on Thursday, and I have to side with both of them. Their explanation of Irving’s comments make more sense than some kind of overnight maturation on the part of the Celtics star.

Irving is a very good player but he’s also a transparent marketer. His flat earth comments, his commercial that became a terrible movie … it’s all about his personal brand. Part of that is shifting blame away from himself as Boston — currently fifth in the East — continues to struggle.

I don’t think Irving is magically more mature. If anything, his apology is a self-serving attempt at comparing himself to LeBron and by association, the rest of the Celtics as the flotsam that has traditionally consisted the Cavaliers roster.

That’s really not a fair view of either side, and I don’t trust much of what comes out of Irving’s comments beyond their obvious marketing value.

Russell Westbrook hanging with his son Noah before the Lakers game was extremely cute (VIDEO)

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Russell Westbrook seems like a pretty intense guy. The Oklahoma City Thunder point guard has won an MVP not by being a pushover, but by pushing past opponents for triple doubles.

We have really rounded out Westbrook as a individual over the past couple of years, particularly after Kevin Durant decamped Oklahoma City for the Golden State Warriors. Part of that has been seeing Westbrook as a father, which we got more of on a Thursday before the Thunder took on the Los Angeles Lakers.

Before the game, Westbrook was seen on the floor hanging out with his son, Noah, and generally having a good time.

The result was, admittedly, extremely cute.

Via Twitter:

Noah Westbrook will be draft eligible in 2036. Set your calendars, I guess.

Michael Beasley tried to enter the game wearing his practice shorts (VIDEO)

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Michael Beasley has given us several hilarious moments over his career. The Los Angeles Lakers forward is known for being a bit of a draft bust as well as an enigmatic, often goofy NBA personality.

On Thursday as the Lakers got set to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder, Beasley was unable to check into the game thanks to a wardrobe malfunction on his part. Specifically, Beasley tried to enter the game while wearing his practice shorts.

Officials told him he couldn’t enter the game and Beasley quickly ran back to the locker room to change into the correct uniform.

Via Twitter:

LeBron James can’t return back to the Lakers soon enough.