LeBron James wiped the floor with everything the Bulls could toss at him in the first half, scoring 14. Dwayne Wade added nine, as the two scored all of Miami's 23 first quarter points.
C.J. Watson played his first game in about ten days after nursing a sprained ankle and started in place of Derrick Rose (groin). And that he hadn't played since March 4 showed, as the Bulls struggle to get into a rhythm against a Miami defense that refused to allow Chicago to force a pace.
In the second quarter, the Bulls straight up shot the Heat out of the gym, hitting 5-of-7 shots from 3-point range and scoring 10 second chance points on six offensive rebounds. Hell, Miami didn't get their first rebound of the quarter until Chris Bosh grabbed a 20-foot LeBrick at the 4:17 mark. The Bulls entered halftime with a 53-42 lead and maintained it with genius defense and John Lucas III 's heroic attack at Miami's defense.
Lucas scored a team-high 24 points on an insane 9-for-12 shooting from the floor (3-for-5 on 3s). He was one of six Bulls that scored in double figures, despite only 20 total assists for the squad on the night.
[PAUSE: If I told you, JL3 would drop 24 against Miami, you'd have guessed 30 shots, right? I didn't stutter, folks. That's 24 points in 12 shots. Like a God Shammgod on a Brooklyn Tuesday.]
James and Wade had high-efficiency nights, but they were the only offense for Miami on a night where they looked like ballhogs to the naked eye. In actuality, Tom Thibodeau had the Bulls using their bodies and arms to block passing lanes. James and Wade are too smart to fall for such bait and were forced to create against strong help.
Thibs used the rotation wisely. He recognized when it was more profitable to play the lesser-talented rested player over the dependable fatigued player. Against Miami, even when they're "lustily booed by the raucous crowd", you have to come with skill, but the bodies must be fresh to keep them away from where their offense kills the bloodiest -- at the free throw line.
The fresh bodies of a ten-man rotation where no one played more than 38 minutes or less than 11 paid off. There weren't those late rotations and reactions where Bulls were forced to hack; and there weren't players exhausting their dribble into too many turnovers.
- The Bulls still turned it over too much because the Heat are a damn good defensive squad. And they scored 21 points off of those 16 turnovers. But the Bulls evened that out. Though the Heat only had ten turnovers, the Bulls killed Miami in transition with 21 points off of turnovers, as well.
- Miami manned up and helped in amazing ways, but couldn't finish their defense. The Bulls didn't score so much on the weak side where massive recoveries were needed, but the Heat still couldn't close out on shooters. And when the Bulls missed shots, they seemed almost absent of any communication to position the team for rebounds. The Bulls' dominance of the glass isn't arcane knowledge and Erik Spoelstra is a hell of a coach. It was amazing to see Joel Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Udonis Haslem all so far out of position for rebounds.
- The Bulls out-rebounded Miami 50-34, but it gets worse. The Bulls forwards and centers almost out-rebounded the entire Miami squad. Anthony, Bosh, and Haslem combined for 11 rebounds, they were so bad, while Taj Gibson had eight in 18 minutes. Finishing the defense isn't just the third effort of recovering to challenge shots, but also to grab rebounds. Carlos Boozer gets shit on for his defense because he just doesn't know where to be; but when a shot's in the air, he knows where the ball's going to land if it misses, to the point where his rebounds look easy and lazy. Miami's bigs didn't even look lazy; the Bulls just read shots like ninjas, as they have all this season and last. That's doing your homework -- homework well assigned by great teachers.
- Speaking of rebounding, the Bulls scored 21 second chance points on 14 offensive rebounds. That's just ridiculous. It just is.
- Let's be honest, the Bulls' 10-for-19 3-point shooting makes you go, "Ehhhhhhhhhhhhh." a bit. Sick night for the aforementioned Lucas, Luol Deng (3-for-6), and Kyle Korver (2-for-4) from 3-point range, but more a case of multiple players simultaneously over-performing than something remotely repeatable.
- But the Bulls did win in a systemic manner. They held Miami to a .482 eFG%, only committing 21 fouls, and holding Miami to only 23 free-throw attempts (FTAs). The Bulls owned the glass and had ten players making substantial contributions to the win. Boozer had only two points, but grabbed eight boards; Deng shot 4-for-13, but hit big 3s and made it difficult for LeBron to see his options in the halfcourt; Joakim Noah only had six rebounds, but scored 14 points and was a huge reason Chris Bosh only shot 3-for-15. Hubie Brown said before the game was over that the Bulls were winning with their formula of defense, rebounding, and depth. Keyword being: "formula".
- The Heat were pretty garbage-y. Another non-repeatable element of the night is Bosh being so brick-tastic, Mario Chalmers not hitting a 3, and James-Wade tossing up 51 shots with only nine FTAs. These things may happen here and there. Hell, they may happen once a week. But they're not happening all happening at the same time in four games of a seven-game series. Something's up with this squad at the moment. Keyword being: "moment".
- The Bulls have won ten of their last 11, while the Heat are 4-4 since All-Star Weekend. The Bulls built their Eastern Conference lead to 3.5 games with the win over the almost-consensual favorites. Chicago's now 36-9, while Miami's 31-11. At some point, Spoelstra said, "We look at the standings. We're not obsessed with it. We're not overwhelmed with it. We look at it. We're aware of it."
That profound quote was apparently worthy of an article for an actual newspaper. A highly credible one at that. Don't ask why. Just keep wasting $0.75 to read the crap for no reason, right? I hereby declare March 14 the annual "Vaughn McClure Learned Something That Everyone Already Knows Day".
Next, the Bulls have a back-to-back on Friday and Saturday, hosting the Trail Blazers and 76ers. yfBB will be away somewhere or other and I'll be in New Orleans for a bachelor party. But don't fear. There are others who will attempt to be as bad at this stuff as we are until Monday.
Then, you'll just deal with us being awful again as always.
Rose is day-to-day with his strained groin. Richard Hamilton is reportedly alive and getting paid to do nothing but piss me off.