John Lucas III could feel it as soon as he stepped on the court. Shots were falling and they didn’t stop dropping until the final buzzer.
Good thing, too, since Derrick Rose wasn’t available.
Lucas scored 24 points, and the Chicago Bulls beat the Miami Heat 106-102 with their star sidelined in a charged showdown between the Eastern Conference’s top two teams Wednesday night.
The Bulls built a 16-point lead in the second quarter, were up 11 at halftime and boosted it back to 17 in the third after a push by the Heat. They then hung on after Miami pulled within two in the closing minute for their 11th win in 12 games even though they were short-handed again.
This time they were without Rose, but they won anyway on a night when Dwyane Wade scored 36 and LeBron James finished with 35 points for the Heat.
”We’re like a brotherhood,” Lucas said. ”When one brother goes down, we have their back.”
Rose has now missed 11 games this season. Injuries have limited Richard Hamilton to just 16 games and Deng has missed time because of his injured left wrist, including the previous two games, but the Bulls keep winning.
They beat Miami even though Wade did his best to lift the Heat down the stretch scoring 19 points in the fourth quarter. His jumper with 1:20 left cut it to 100-96, and it stayed that way until Chicago’s Kyle Korver hit two free throws with 17 seconds remaining.
The Heat weren’t finished, though.
James Jones nailed a 3 with 10 seconds left to make it a three point game, and he hit another one with 6.8 seconds to go after Korver buried two more free throws, pulling Miami within 104-102. Lucas then clinched it when he hit two foul shots with 6 seconds remaining, giving the Bulls the win on a night when Rose watched from the sideline with a strained groin.
That had to feel particularly good since the Heat clinched the Eastern Conference championship the last time they visited Chicago.
Wade said the Bulls missed Rose’s attacking ability.
One thing they didn’t miss, though?
”They didn’t miss anything with the confidence and energy they played with,” Wade said.
Lucas provided a huge spark off the bench, missing his previous career-high by one point, and led six Bulls in double figures even though he had James guarding him. It didn’t matter if he was open or guarded, set or off-balance. He simply didn’t miss much.
Lucas hit 9 of 12 shots, 3 of 5 3-pointers, in one of the best games of his career.
”That’s how he plays all the time – instant offense,” said C.J. Watson, who started at point guard for Rose.
Joakim Noah chipped in with 14 points and four blocks. Korver and Ronnie Brewer scored 12, Luol Deng and Watson added 11 apiece. Chicago’s reserves outscored Miami’s 56-15, and the Bulls outrebounded the Heat 50-34.
While Wade dominated down the stretch, James scored just two points in the fourth quarter, and Chris Bosh struggled the whole way for the Heat. He scored 12 but was just 3 of 15 from the field as Miami lost again after falling at Orlando the previous night.
”You can play great defense against them and they can still make (shots),” coach Tom Thibodeau said. ”What we were trying to do, and the way the game was unfolding, is that we did not want to get anyone else going.”
He pointed out the 3-pointers by Jones and said the Bulls ”did not play defense the way we would like in the second half.”
Even so, they hit enough shots in the end, with Lucas leading the way against a team that cut him in the past.
”We know him (Lucas) well. That was probably part of it,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”We were one of the teams that cut him. He’s a tough minded player. That’s a good story line for a lot of young players out there that don’t have the mental toughness to stay with it. I don’t know how many times that kid has been cut, but it’s made him tougher.”
Notes: Spoelstra indicated Miami won’t be too active before Thursday’s trade deadline. ”Our focus is on this group,” he said. ”We feel we have enough.” … Heat F Mike Miller missed his second straight game because of a sprained left ankle, and Spoelstra said there’s no timetable for his return. … The Bulls signed veteran guard Mike James to a 10-day contract.