CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade had just hit a jump shot from the right baseline late in the third quarter to give Miami a 56-40 lead in Game 4. And although Chicago fans at the United Center could sense the outcome, they urged their Bulls to keep fighting.
After all, that’s what Chicago has done through injury and illness this season and throughout the playoffs.
But it all caught up with the Bulls on Monday night against the defending NBA champions, right from the start. After Carlos Boozer gave Chicago a 2-0 lead, the Heat went on an 11-0 run.
Chicago’s shooting fell apart, going 6 for 22 from the field, including 0 for 8 from three-point range in the first quarter. There were five turnovers in the opening period for the Bulls. At halftime, Chicago had shot just 26.8 percent (11 for 41) and hit just 1 of 11 three-pointers.
The Bulls ended up shooting 25.7 percent (19 for 74) for the game, 2 of 17 on three-point attempts, in an 88-65 loss to the Heat to fall behind 3-1 in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
“I thought we got off to a slow start and dug a big hole,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “The first quarter we had good ball movement and open shots that we just didn’t make. That took away from our defensive intensity.
“We can’t allow frustration of shots you miss take you out of your game. You can play well and not shoot well. You can’t let it take you out of rebounding and defending. The entire team is capable of playing better.”
The Bulls turned into a team that appeared out of gas.
Even Nate Robinson, the spunky point guard who came into the game leading Chicago with an average of 17.4 points per game in the postseason, had an off night. Robinson went 0 for 12 for no points through three quarters and was benched in the fourth.
“Not worn out at all,” Robinson said after the game. “There’s a lot of basketball left. We’ll gather ourselves, go back to the drawing boards and figure it out. The guys in the locker room are all we got. Everyone doubted us anyway, for us, we just gotta go and get that win and come back home.”
Chicago set team playoff records for fewest points (65); fewest points in a quarter (nine in the third); fewest field goals made in a game (19); and lowest field-goal percentage in a game (25.7).
Boozer went just 3 for 14 from the field and finished with a team-high 14 points after going 10 for 16 for 21 points in Game 3.
With Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng and Derrick Rose not playing in this series, minutes piled up on the Bulls. Jimmy Butler averaged just over 42 minutes in the first three games. Robinson averaged nearly 40 and Marco Belinelli averaged 43.
Richard Hamilton made his first appearance for Chicago in the series, playing nearly 22 minutes and scoring 11 points.
Chicago credited Miami’s defense, but the Bulls weren’t sharp with their passes or shooting. They threw balls away and shot air balls.
“We didn’t execute very well,” Bulls center Joakim Noah said. “... For us, we just gotta not put our heads down.
“We didn’t make shots [Monday night], but we feel we can go down there and get one in Miami and come back here for Game 6.”
In the closing minutes, Bulls fans were tossing paper airplanes into the air to amuse themselves.
“We’ve been through this all season long, fighting,” Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. “It’s frustrating.”