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When Tiny-ball actually worked

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Duhon as the third guard. The sum of all fears happened midway through the 3rd quarter and I thought the game would be lost. But the Bulls with their small lineup erased a twelve-point deficit and held onto a lead for most of the 4th. Granted, it's hard to figure how Duhon contributed, with a total of zero points during his 16 second-half minutes. But what he didn't do was turn the ball over, something the Bulls were doing at a frightening rate in the middle quarters (finished with 18).

With the Bulls going small they managed to reduce turnovers and force some of their own on defense, while the Heat weren't able capitalize enough with their size advantage, either by fouling Shaq when he got the ball or rotating quickly when he passed the ball back out. Meanwhile the scoring load was taken over by Kirk and Ben (Deng bore the brunt of playing the 4 and battled foul trouble in the fourth), who were both fantastic tonight in getting to the lane. They scored on floaters and from the line, with Gordon yet again doing his Wade impersonation by taking 14 foul shots. Like in Game One, Gordon's 3-point shooting wasn't carrying him but he made up for it by getting inside. It's what will separate him into that next-level of great scorers.

But almost as important as that second-half comeback was the fact that the Heat never turned the game into a blowout. It's partly some ill-timed misses from the Heat (their role players did not shoot particularly well, outside of Posey) but also because the Bulls didn't panic and rode out the storm of bad turnovers (and an especially bad stint by the two rookies, but Gordon and Nocioni were turnover-machines too) while doing just enough on offense when they did hold on to the ball to keep the deficit manageable. It felt, to me,  that the Bulls were taking the Heat's best shot, and if they could remain standing they'd hit back at the end. This wasn't a reprise of last season's series-changing loss where Skiles went to the deep bench and the whole thing went to hell.

They were able to ride it out and then when making their run did what they have done to the Heat all series: be quicker and more athletic on the perimeter. Not over-help to cover an aging Shaq (dude couldn't even jump near the end of that game) and fouling him when he got too close. Shaq always says his free-throws never cost his team, but it did tonight and allowed the Bulls to play small while his big self (and Haslem too, who was a complete waste) couldn't make up for it.