Bulls go cold against Heat
Missed shots and wasted opportunities. The Chicago Bulls couldn't connect in the fourth quarter and they couldn't stop a late surge by LeBron James, either.
And now the Bulls head to Miami with the Eastern Conference finals tied at 1-1 and the Heat in control of homecourt advantage.
The Bulls, down by 11 in the third quarter, tied the game on a basket by Taj Gibson with 7:16 to go and then squandered several chances to take the lead against the determined Heat. Chicago managed just one basket the rest of the way, scoring only 10 in the fourth quarter of an 85-75 loss.
''They were into us, they fought us,'' Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ''Their ball pressure was great, they challenged shots and when the ball went up, they fought us.''
The Bulls shot only 34 percent and were 4 for 16 in the final 12 minutes. MVP Derrick Rose was just 7-for-23 shooting, missing all four of his attempts in the fourth, and finishing with 21 points. He had two points in the final quarter - on free throws.
Nothing came easy for Chicago, which shot a dismal 17 of 42 in the paint.
''If anything, they closed down the lane, but I missed a lot of layups. Shots I normally hit just weren't falling,'' Rose said. ''Everybody was just missing shots that are normally just easy for us.''
Chicago limited the Heat to two points over the first 7 1/2 minutes of the final quarter, keeping James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh scoreless. But with several chances to take the lead, the Bulls misfired and finally James found the range.
He hit a 3-pointer and then another jumper and Miami finished it off, responding with a strong game on the boards after its 21-point loss in the opener Sunday night.
The Bulls' defense, so tenacious in Game 1, wasn't able to stop James and Wade from getting inside the lane where they could go to the rim or draw fouls. And they couldn't keep the Heat from breaking out during the third quarter when they were sparked by Udonis Haslem, who gave the Bulls problems inside and out.
''He's one of those guys - and you really can't measure him statistically - he brings a lot of toughness to their team, high energy guy, terrific defensively,'' Thibodeau said.
Chicago pulled down seven offensive rebounds in first seven minutes and then only two the remainder of the half. And they missed 14 of their first 18 field goal attempts, setting the tone for the night.
Chicago's staggering 31 second-chance points and 19-6 offensive rebounding edge in Game 1 were also offset by the Heat's hustle. Miami still got beat on the offensive glass 17-10 but won the overall board play 45-41. And this time the Bulls had only 18 second-chance points.
''We played low-energy offense, we played low-energy defense and the result was not great,'' Thibodeau said.
Home court gone, the Bulls now head to Miami where they won in their only appearance in the regular season.
They'll have to find their shooting touch. Luol Deng was 5 for 15, Carlos Boozer 3 for 10 and 3-point artist Kyle Korver just 1 for 7. Chicago was 3-for-20 on 3-pointers and missed 10 free throws.
''We just never got into a flow,'' Korver said.
Boozer managed only seven points along with eight rebounds. He didn't play in the fourth quarter and Game 3 is a long way off - Sunday night.
''Trust me, we would rather play right away especially after a loss like this,'' he said.
Deng said the Bulls were still in the game with four minutes to go and credited his team with fighting back. He said he had no problem with how the Bulls defended James, who finished with 29 - 14 more than Game 1 - or Wade, who scored 24 after 18 in the opener.
''Not very often are they going to have off nights,'' Deng said. ''I still thought we did a good job on them. They hit some tough shots that we're OK with it, as long as they're not getting too many easy shots.
''They responded well and took one. Now it's up to us to go down there and try to win.''