CHICAGO -- Back in March, the Bulls ended the Heats 27-game winning streak in this building they call The Madhouse.
On Friday, the Heat started a slightly more important streak at United Center with a 104-94 victory against the Bulls in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Dating to the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat has won three consecutive playoff games at Chicagos shrine of basketball. Miami now leads the best-of-7 series 2-1, with Game 4 on Monday at United Center.
After struggling with his outside shot for most of the game, LeBron James drilled a spot-up three-pointer from the wing with 2:34 left to give the Heat a 93-86 lead. Later, Norris Coles three-pointer from 27 feet put the Heat ahead by eight points, its largest lead of the game to that point.
From there, the Heat closed it out behind the dominating strength of James, who completed a three-point play with 1:23 remaining.
Ray Allen made one of two free throws to give the Heat a 100-94 lead with 39.1 seconds left. Allens miss was his first miss from the free-throw line in the series.
The Heat, which lost Game 1 at AmericanAirlines Arena, once again holds home-court advantage in the series. James led the Heat with 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. He had 10 points in the fourth quarter and was 2 of 4 from three-point range.
Chris Bosh had 20 points and 19 rebounds, and Cole followed up his breakout performance in Game 2 with another impressive show. He finished with 18 points also his scoring total in Game 2 and was 6 of 7 from the field and 3 of 3 from three-point range. Cole nearly matched the combined scoring of the Heats other two guards, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers. Wade and Chalmers, the Heats starters, contributed 19 points. Wade had just 10 points, going 5 of 7 from the field.
If [Bosh] gets 12, 14 rebounds, were a dangerous team, James said. It just shows his activity level. Hes out there with one of the best rebounders in the game and guarding Joakim [Noah] play-for-play, and for him to have 19 rebounds and for Norris to come off the bench and defend Nate [Robinson] and also contribute offensively those two guys are the reason we won the game.
The game was close from beginning to end, with the score never separated by more than seven points until late in the fourth quarter. James knocked down a corner three-pointer with 43 seconds left in the third to tie it 69-69, and the period ended tied at 70-70. The first quarter ended tied 25-25, and the Heat led 52-50 at halftime. There were 10 ties and seven lead changes in the first half alone. Overall, there were 11 lead changes and 14 ties.
Youve got to put [Chicago] in the top-three hardest-playing teams in the league, so when you come in here youve got to compete at a high level, Udonis Haslem said. They make you compete at a high level. If you dont compete, then youre going to get embarrassed by their effort.
A dunk by Wade gave the Heat a five-point lead with 6:23 left in the game. It was the Heats largest lead, but it didnt last long. Carlos Boozer, playing his best basketball of the series, drilled a 16-foot, pull-up jumper seconds later. Boozer finished with 21 points but was outplayed by Bosh, whose 19 rebounds set a career postseason high. Bosh had 10 points and 10 rebounds by halftime.