Carlos Boozer came into Game 3 with improvement on his mind.
The Bulls forward came into the game averaging just seven points per game on 30 percent shooting in the first two playoff games in Miami. In four regular-season games against Miami, Boozer averaged 19 points on 54 percent shooting.
Boozer didn’t waste any time by scoring Chicago’s first basket. Then he hit a floater for a 10-8 Bulls lead. He got Bulls fans on their feet with a slam dunk off a pass from Joakim Noah to tie the score at 12-12 with 6 minutes 16 seconds left in the first quarter.
The first period ended in a 25-25 tie, and Boozer had scored 10 of his team’s points.
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Boozer’s improved play in Game 3 seemed to get his teammates going, too.
Noah got into a scrape with the Heat’s Chris Andersen after Andersen landed on top of Bulls guard Nate Robinson. Bulls center Nazr Mohammed was called for a technical foul and got ejected from the game in the second quarter for shoving LeBron James. And Robinson blocked a James layup attempt in the third quarter from behind.
Boozer was limited by Miami’s defense to four points in the second quarter and two in the third. He went 8 for 13 through the opening three quarters for 16 points.
Not only was Boozer hitting shots, but the rest of the Bulls also were much better with their field goal percentage in Game 2. Chicago made 26 of 55 shots through the first three quarters for 47.3 percent. Its three-point shooting was nearly just as sharp, going 6 of 13 for 46.2 percent.
Marco Belinelli made three of his first six attempts from three-point range, and Jimmy Butler was 2 for 2.
In the fourth, Boozer hit a jumper from the free-throw line to pull the Bulls within 83-80. He got the Bulls within 93-88 on a jump shot from the right baseline.
Chicago came into Friday night’s game looking for a better effort and some redemption for its embarrassing 37-point defeat Wednesday night. The Bulls got the effort, but fell short in a 104-94 loss to fall behind 2-1 in the Eastern Conference semifinal.
Boozer regained his shooting touch, finishing with 21 points. The Bulls opened their game by hitting three-pointers. But foul trouble plagued them in the fourth quarter. Chicago improved, but will have to do even better to even the series Monday night.