Eastern Conference Finals Game 3: Heat Win 96-85, Lead Series 2-1

Posted by By at 23 May, at 22 : 41 PM Print

For the second straight game Miami’s suffocating defense kept Chicago’s offense under wraps and Chicago’s defense offered little resistance to Miami’s offense. Chris Bosh had his best playoff performance, and possibly the best night of his career. The game was marred by the capturing of Joakim Noah, by TNT cameras, appearing to direct a slur and profanity towards a fan behind the Chicago bench. Another disappointing loss after a dominating opening win leaves the Bulls with serious regrouping to do before tomorrow’s must win game 4.

After the game Chris Bosh said he wanted to be more “aggressive” and that’s exactly what he did. He had his way with Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, going 13-18 from the floor and 8-10 from the free-throw line to score 34 points. This is no doubt the Bosh Heat fans have been waiting for this postseason and if this game serves as his wake-up call the Heat could be near impossible to stop. LeBron essentially played point guard, and did it pretty well with a game-high 10 assists and no turnovers. As he’s done in both Miami victories he stepped up the offense down the stretch when needed to put the game out of reach. He’s slowly shedding that “not able to finish” label. He finished with 22 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks to go with the assists.

Dwyane Wade didn’t have the best shooting night, but did enough to keep Chicago’s defense honest. He was much more effective driving to the basket, as usual, then settling for the baseline jumpers that weren’t going in. He finished 17 points and a team-leading 9 rebounds. Mike Bibby only hit two shots, but they were both three’s that came at key points when it looked like Chicago was starting to gain some momentum. Udonis Haslem again played a very solid 24 minutes off the bench. On more than a few occasions his help defense was key in shutting down Rose’s drives to the lane. He also hit a jumper with 1:29 left to put Miami up by nine and end the Chicago’s chances of a late comeback.

Derrick Rose did not play the part of facilitator, which led to the offense looking disjointed the majority of the evening. He went into halftime with zero assists and Chicago as a team had only five. Part of that was due to the two and three Heat players he was surrounded by each time he drove the lane and rarely had open passing lanes to find open teammates and was forced to attempt low percentage shots. He finished with 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists, but his impact was largely not felt although his stat line was solid. Carlos Boozer had his best offensive game this postseason, unfortunately it wasn’t good enough as his much criticized defense led to Bosh negating the 26 points he scored. He was 10-13 from the free-throw line and also grabbed a game-best 17 rebounds.

Luol Deng was a solid contributor yet again, but had to work hard for each of his 14 points thanks to LeBron’s defense on him. On defense he did a solid job for most of the game, but as the game wore on James began to take over as he did in game 2. Joakim Noah’s lasting mark on the game will be for what he said off the court and not what he did on the court. His use of profanity and a slur towards fans sitting behind the bench will be what people are talking about today, not his 1 point, 5 rebound performance, or lack thereof. Taj Gibson came off the bench to score 11, mostly within the last two minutes as the Bulls tried to mount a late comeback, but his efforts weren’t enough.

Miami should come out in front of the home fans sensing  blood tomorrow night and try to put the series all but away with a 3-1 lead. Another big performance by Bosh to go along with the always steady Wade and James may be enough. Bibby and Chalmers have been giving Erik Spoelstra solid minutes at the point guard spot and the two-headed center monster of Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem have dominated down low the last two games. Miami appears to be clicking on all cylinders now and two more performances like games 2 and 3 will probably see them in the Finals.

Not only will Chicago need to figure out how to solve Miami’s stingy defense, they’ll have to deal with the extra media attention surrounding them thanks to Noah’s outburst. On the court they’ve got quite a bit to fix. The offense has had little to not continuity. The defense has allowed Miami to shoot 47% and 51% the last two games. Boozer seems to have found his footing, which is a welcome sight for Tom Thibodeau and fans. Deng has proved to be not spectacular, but consistent. The formula that led the Bulls to 62 regular season: Derrick Rose being a facilitator (which he wasn’t last night) and defense (which hasn’t been nearly good enough the last two games) have escaped them at the wrong time. A repeat performance of either game 2 or 3 will leave the Bulls with a mountainous hill to climb. As much as Miami would like to win game 4 to put a stranglehold on the series, Chicago needs it far more to even things up not dig themselves a hole that could be too deep to get out of.

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