What happened: The Miami Heat have regained homecourt advantage in their Eastern Conference semifinal against the Chicago Bulls.
The Heat surprisingly dropped Game 1. But they’ve since won two straight, including 104-94 Friday night in Game 3 at the United Center.
It wasn’t nearly as easy as Miami’s 115-78 win in Game 2. The Heat trailed early in the fourth quarter before slowly pulling away.
LeBron James led the Heat with 25 points and center Chris Bosh had 20 points and a career playoff-high 19 rebounds. Forward Carlos Boozer led Chicago with 21 points.
While it didn’t match Game 2, when there were nine technicals, two ejections and a flagrant foul, Game 3 also was physical. There were three technicals and an ejection. After James pushed Chicago center Nazr Mohammed early in the second quarter, James got a technical and Mohammed was thrown out after giving James a hard shove back.
The turning point: With the Heat leading 85-83 with just over four minutes remaining, they went on an 11-5 run to take a 96-88 with just over two minutes remaining.
The depleted Bulls by then had run out of gas. They were playing without injured star guard Derrick Rose (knee), forward Luol Deng (illness) and guard Kirk Hinrich. And Mohammed’s ejection further hampered their depth.
The difference maker: For the second straight game, Heat point guard Norris Cole was big off the bench. Cole on Friday had 18 points on 6 of 7 shooting, including 3 of 3 from 3-point range.
Cole now is 8 of 8 on 3-pointers in the series. He was 4 of 4 while scoring 18 points in Game 2.
What it means: The Heat have regained control of the series and the Bulls might be too depleted to do anything about it. It’s very possible Rose, Deng and Hinrich will end up not playing at all in this series.
The Bulls face a must-win situation in Game 4. But they already have run out of gas against the deep Heat.
What’s next: Game 4 of the series is at 7 p.m. Monday at the United Center.