James, Heat survive physical Game 3
by Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
CHICAGO — The magic, Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau likes to say, is in the effort.
And as the gallant Bulls have displayed over and over, they turned another A-plus effort.
They just failed to complete the trick.
The Miami Heat defeated Chicago 104-94 in Game 3 on Wednesday, taking a 2-1 series lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series. Game 4 is Monday in Chicago (7 p.m. ET, TNT).
The Heat wrestled away home-court advantage after losing it in Chicago’s Game 1 victory. The team with home-court advantage is 91-25 (78.4%) in conference semifinal series since the 16-team playoff format began in 1984.
The Heat should consider themselves fortunate. The Bulls contained Heat forward LeBron James and guard Dwyane Wade and relied on outstanding performances from center Chris Bosh and backup point guard Norris Cole.
Bosh had 20 points and 17 rebounds, and Cole added 18 points, another strong game for the growing second-year point guard.
Chicago’s tenacious defense kept the Heat in check. James had 23 points on 6-for-17 shooting, and Wade scored 10 points on passive offensive effort. He took seven shots, one in the first half.
But the already-depleted Bulls — playing just seven players because of Nazr Mohammed’s second-quarter ejection — did not have enough left in tank in the fourth quarter.
The Heat outscored the Bulls 34-24 in the fourth quarter. James’ three-pointer with 2:35 left put Miami up 93-86, and Cole’s three with 1:48 made it 96-88.
James’ driving layup for a three-point play made it 99-90 with 1:23 left, just enough of a cushion to hold off Chicago. He also made 5-of-5 free throws in the final 83 seconds.
James had 12 points, Bosh eight and Cole seven in the fourth quarter.
James finished with another decent playoff line — eight rebounds and seven assists in addition to his scoring. But again, the Bulls didn’t let James have anything easy. He persevered and delivered with the game on the line.
Miami’s depth continued to exploit Chicago’s lack of it. After outscoring Chicago’s bench 55-25 in Game 2, the Heat reserves outscored Chicago’s depleted bench 36-8 in Game 3. At one point, the Bulls starters … [For more on LeBron James, Heat survive physical Bulls in Game 3, click here.]