The Heat has skirted past determined opponents aplenty this season with superior talent and above-average shooting. When it comes to determination, the Bulls are not most teams.
Chicago outrebounded the Heat by 20 on Friday night at AmericanAirlines Arena and defeated Miami 96-89. It was the Heat’s third home loss of the season. The Bulls (18-13) held the Heat (22-9) to 46.2 percent shooting and won the rebounding battle 48-28.
The Bulls had 20 rebounds at halftime. The Heat grabbed its 20th rebound of the game with 7:09 to play.
Erik Spoelstra joked before the game that LeBron James wasn’t “superhuman.” Despite the loss, James offered little proof of that assumption. Playing on a bruised knee and clearly slowed by the injury, James still managed 30 points, six rebounds and two assists.
James wasn’t himself but still managed to extend his scoring streak of at least 20 points in every game this season.
It was James who pulled down the Heat’s 20th rebound. On the Heat’s next possession, tiny Bulls point guard Nate Robinson engineered a five-point swing that gave Chicago a nine-point lead. On the defensive end, Robinson forced a turnover when he stepped in front of Ray Allen, who was driving hard to the basket following a chaotic loose-ball situation.
Allen made the basket but was called for an offensive foul. Moments later, Robinson drained a three-pointer to give the Bulls an 82-73 lead with 5:57 to play.
The Bulls are still awaiting the return of point guard Derrick Rose but have managed to remain competitive without the young All-Star. Rose is traveling with the team but is still about a month away from returning to action. The Bulls have made due at point guard with a mix of Robinson, Rip Hamilton and Kirk Hinrich.
The trio of guards was a productive combination against the Heat. They combined to score 30 points, shooting 13 of 23 from the field.
Chicago took a 91-82 lead with 1:58 to play, but the Heat wouldn’t go away easily. Allen made a three-pointer and on the Heat’s next possession a clear-path foul gave Miami a chance to make it a one-possession game. The Heat came away with just one point, a free throw by James.
Carlos Boozer ended the Heat’s threat when he stripped Chris Bosh with 1:13 remaining. Boozer then scored a layup to give Chicago a seven-point lead with 46.3 seconds left. Boozer led the Bulls with 27 points, going 12 of 17 from the field. Boozer and Joakim Noah had 12 rebounds each. Noah added 13 points and four assists.
Noah’s hard foul
Momentum tilted in the Heat’s favor briefly after a hard foul by Noah, the player who led the Gators to back-to-back national championships while at the University of Florida. Noah grabbed James by the neck to prevent a drive to the basket and was whistled for a fragrant foul. Miami cut the Bulls lead to 75-72 after four consecutive free throws by James and then a driving dunk.
Chicago led 49-48 after the first half and then extended that lead to 75-66 in the third quarter. Bulls reserve shooting guard Marco Bellineli of Italy gave the Bulls a nine-point lead with two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Dwyane Wade had 22 points, shooting 7 of 11 from the field. Bosh had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists. The Heat’s bench scored 14 points. The Bulls reserves had 33 points.
Rebounding has seemed like an afterthought for the Heat recently and that trend continued against the Bulls, which is winning games without Rose thanks to a physical defense.
The Bulls dominated inside in the first half. Chicago outrebounded the Heat 24-12 in the first half, recording 10 offensive boards. Led by Boozer, the Bulls had 32 points in the paint before the break. Chicago finished with 46 points inside. The Heat had 34.