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Bulls beat Heat in Rose and Wade Show

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Jan 16

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That 99-96 Bulls victory over the Miami Heat in the United Center Saturday was fun.

It didn’t mean that much with LeBron James not playing and Chris Bosh hurt in the third quarter, though it may mean something for the Bulls ahead as Carlos Boozer sprained his left ankle as Kyle Korver hit the game winning three pointer with 25.5 seconds remaining.

“Last play,” said Boozer, his left ankle heavily wrapped as he limped out of the locker room in a walking boot and rode a cart to his car. “I came down hard on it. It hurts right now. It really swelled up a lot. We’ll see what happens in the next day or two.”

Though it seems likely to me having seen these injuries before that Boozer won’t play Monday in Memphis and maybe not Tuesday back in Chicago against Charlotte, though the Bulls have not announced an injury update for Boozer yet. A Pyrrhic victory, perhaps?

So we’ll wait, and at least enjoy the momemts of one of the most exciting games in recent memory, the sellout crowd in a playoff frenzy pitch with boos cascading down for Dwyane Wade and the range of emotions tilting from euphoria to despair to a throne at the height of bliss in a matter of seconds as Wade and Derrick Rose engaged in a classic end game shootout reminiscent of the best of Michael and Larry, Michael and Isiah and Michael and Dominique.

“It was fun,” said Rose, who finished with 34 points, eight assists and three blocks to 33 points, four assists and five blocks for Wade. “Especially fun against a player like that. He was just balling out, hitting tough shots. The shots he was hitting, you want players to take shots like that, fading back, contested three pointers. There’s nothing you can do about that. Thank god they missed the last one. The shots (Wade) was hitting were amazing.

“That’s why I’m in this league,” Rose added. “I love competing against the best. It’s really exciting when a game is like that because it makes you bring your best stuff. You just want to do anything you can to win. People were seeing it that way but I was just doing whatever it takes for my team to get the victory.”

So let’s go back to that thrilling day, yesterday, when out of nowhere came these thundering moments and with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty “Hi-yo, guys,” came Derrick Rose to the rescue once again.

And oh did the Bulls, now 27-13 and just two games behind Miami, need it with Boozer struggling against the taller Chris Bosh and Luol Deng seemingly gassed in playing just under 39 minutes as he’s moved up to third in the league in minutes played. Both Deng and Boozer, who combined for two fourth quarter points, scored 12, the only other Bulls in addition to Rose in double figures.

Even without James and Bosh with 17 points leaving late in the third quarter with a sprained ankle after going on the floor for a ball with Omer Asik and complaining Asik shouldn’t have fallen on him (yes, really), the Heat also got double figuring scoring from Mario Chalmers and Eddie House and hit 13 three pointers.

So it was left to Rose and Wade to battle it out with the Bulls leading 88-85 with 3:49 left after Wade missed one of two free throws among his 13 and repeated moaning and screaming at the referees.

Rose had eight free throws, making them all, but it’s shocking how much referee abuse Wade is allowed.

It’s easy to see him complaining constantly during the game when he doesn’t get a foul call. But I happened to overhear him yelling at lead official Ken Mauer after the opening play of the fourth quarter when Wade missed a jumper and the scramble for the rebound was called off Miami.

Wade yelled at Mauer all the way back down court and then sneered, “Keep helping them out!”

But Wade is a heck of a player, and it was a duel that made the night worthwhile even without the spectacle of James.

– Rose drove into a pyramid of Miami defenders in the lane, basically clothleslined by Juwan Howard as Wade immediately ran to the officials to complain about the call. Rose barely avoided losing a limb. Consider Rose scored 34 points with Miami devoting two defenders to Rose wherever he went. Rose made both free throws for a 90-85 lead with 3:29 left.

– Wade blew by Deng on the perimeter and was fouled coming in on the left wing by Boozer. That was a questionable defensive assignment by the Bulls as Ronnie Brewer did the best job on Wade and had Wade on the last play of the game when Wade missed a desperation jumper short to end it. But Wade, shockingly, missed both free throws with 3:19 left.

– Deng then dropped a crosscourt pass from Rose, picked it up but traveled in pump faking with 2:57 left.

– The Bulls began to double Wade more and with Deng and Boozer jumping at him, Wade left it to the corner where Chalmers missed a three with 2:34 left. Still Bulls by five.

– Rose then was doubled driving on the left wing by Chalmers and Joel Anthony and hit a diving Deng, whose five foot shot was blocked by Wade. 2:32 left.

– Chalmers then got a pass from Wade on the right wing. Rose was up too close and Chalmers went by. Anthony sealed Boozer, so there was no help and Chalmers made a layup to get Miami within three with 2:03 left.

– Rose then drove left, crossed over Chalmers and came back right at Wade. Rose veered left again and went over Anthony at the rim for a layup: Bulls ahead 92-87 with 1:40 remaining. Crowd going nuts on a night the Bulls pushed their All Star candidacy for Rose with posters for everyone and long stem roses courtside.

– Wade then dribbled up slowly with Deng retreating and walked into a three to bring Miami within 92-90 with 1:33 left. The Heat had gone small by now with four guards, and Deng was having trouble matching up while he was, effectively, unable to take advantage of his size on offense against Wade with Deng seemingly tiring by then.

– Rose then got a rare isolation against Chalmers as C.J. Watson handled the ball initially and went back to Rose, both opening the court and also keeping the pick and roll away so as not to bring that second defender. Rose pump faked, Chalmers went up, came down on Rose and Rose finished with the swish and foul for the three point play to make it 95-90 Bulls with 1:18 left. Long way to go. “It was intense, great energy,” said Joakim Noah, still a spectator on the Bulls bench. “Unbelievable. Two star players going at it. It’s great to see Derrick go at D Wade and do a great job. He’s not backing down from anybody.”

– Wade’s turn. He took a pass from Chalmers, circled around right and put in another three over Deng before the help could arrive, making it 95-93 Bulls with 1:07 left. That didn’t take long. “We wanted Luol to be on him,” said Thibodeau. “With Wade you have to decide the things you are willing to live with. We wanted to keep him off the free throw line and we wanted to take his lay-ups away. He was still able to get to the free throw line and get his lay-ups and get his threes. He did just about everything. We went small on him, we went big on him, we doubled him at times, we played him straight. We tried to give him different looks. He plays with a lot of poise and he has the ability to make great plays.”

– Rose then made a lazy pass crosscourt, which was picked off by Chalmers. Chalmers drove and went baseline, but didn’t shoot, getting the ball back out to Wade. He had Watson on him now. Wade pulled back above the three point circle, pump faked Watson in the air. Watson came down trying to avoid Wade to Wade’s right and Wade went back up for his third consecutive three pointer and a 96-95 Miami lead with 37.2 seconds left. Wade then raised both arms, now the villain back in his hometown as Isiah Thomas became after Jordan arrived, the crowd booing and verbally assaulting the once popular South Side kid. Wade held both arms aloft to the crowd, signaling both for a foul and a welcome of what he’d done. “I wanted it. I wanted this one,” said Wade with a laugh, and he did go to hug and congratulate Rose after the game on the court.

– Now it really became fun. Rose drove right against Wade and went up with a runner, which went long. Boozer had a point blank tip which rolled over the rim and then Wade appeared to tip the ball out as Boozer came down hard and limping. Kyle Korver, who had missed all three of his three pointers, was hanging by the three point line ready to retreat. He saw the ball heading out to his right and admitted his first instinct was to get back, as Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau always demands. “On the shot we want the defender back to defend our basket,” agreed Thibodeau. “Kyle had a good read on it and felt he could get it so he took the chance. Thankfully he came up with it and huge shot, huge shot. The end result is good.” Korver stepped past Chalmers into the left corner and made the three for a 98-96 Bulls lead with 25.5 seconds left. “Everyone else was flying the other way,” said Korver. “The ball came to me and I was wide open. I haven’t had a lot of great looks lately. It was the most open I’ve been in a month.”

– The next play became a scramble as Wade lost the ball trying to split Watson with Brewer now on Wade. Mike Miller picked up the ball and threw on top to House, who threw weak side to Chalmers. He dribbled across the lane with everyone switching now and fired back on top to House who dribbled right and threw back to a wide open Chalmers, replacing him on top. But Chalmers’ three hit back rim and Brewer got the rebound and was fouled with 4.4 seconds left. But Brewer missed one of two. “Mario could easily have won the game,” said Rose. “It would have been the second time he beat me with that damn shot (NCAA final game). I was praying it didn’t go in.”

– So this was it and you knew it was going to Wade for the tie if the Bulls couldn’t foul first and Brewer knew that as well. “I didn’t want him to get a chance to go to the free throw line (for three),” said Brewer. “On the previous plays, he hit shots on a dribble pull up and one dribble and pump fake and get contact. I wanted to stay on my feet and close his space and put my hands up and make him take a tough shot.” Just as planned. Wade went right to the three point line and caught facing the basket so the Bulls couldn’t foul. He pump faked, but Brewer stayed down, and now without leverage Wade shot went short and that was the game. “Two superstar players like that get it going, you watch and are amazed,” said Brewer. “I thought single handedly he would win the game for them. But D Rose made some big plays and shots and we came away with the win.”

It would have been a tough one for the Bulls to lose with James not playing. Wade said James asked him what to do and Wade said he told him not to play unless he was right given it was a regular season game. James declined comment. Of course, the Bulls were without Noah, so you can’t get a good read on these teams until they meet again healthy, which the Bulls hope will be with Noah back the Thursday after the All Star game with Miami again in the United Center. Though with Miami’s weaknesses at point guard and center and the competition level developing, you can see this starting to become perhaps the rivalry of the next five years in the Eastern Conference.

“Derrick is one of the great players in the game today,” said Wade. “And probably will be for a long time to come. He’s a leader on and off the court. He’s still young, but he’s playing with so much confidence. His guys believe in him, his coach believes in him. The sky is the limit with the talent he has.You don’t see a point guard with the ability he has, the way he can finish in traffic or over the top. And now he’s added an outside shot to his arsenal. Chicago’s got a good one with him.”

The Bulls were ready for this game, as they should be even with James out.

They led 28-19 after one as Miami frequently shifted in and out of zone defense to try to change the pace on the Bulls. Wade had 10 early, but Rose also was more active to start instead of waiting back as he’s been less aggressive early at times when the defense sent a trap.

The Bulls looked like they would make it an easy one, taking a 38-25 lead midway through the second quarter. But Miami got back in it and actually grabbed a 53-48 halftime lead with House and Miller knocking in five threes between them in the quarter.

But the Bulls came flying out of the locker room on a 17-0 run to start the third quarter with the Bulls relieving the pressure some on Rose by having him off the ball and coming back to it later, making it harder for the Heat to double quickly. Rose hit a pair of threes in the Bulls first three possessions and the Bulls were off to a 65-53 lead as Rose got hammered on a drive, fell back with the ball and then laid it in left handed.

Kurt Thomas, after his 18 rebounds against the Pacers Friday, hit all four of his shots in helping the Bulls hang onto that third quarter lead.

“I keep getting my shots up and I knew it would come around,” said Thomas, whose teammates were joking after the last few games he should be a candidate for Most Improved player.

But Bosh got it going with jumpers drawing Boozer out and going past him until Thibodeau pulled Boozer for Taj Gibson, as he’s done lately. Bosh, though, soon went out after a scramble for a loose ball with Omer Asik. Though Bosh jump limped around and cursed to himself at the time, he later accused Asik of basically not respecting someone better even as it was a game with players diving on the floor for balls a half dozen times.

“You’ve got to watch people’s legs,” Bosh said after the game. “I know guys want to hustle and everything but we all want to play and provide for our families and have a job. We all want to be healthy and that is very important. If it is by somebody’s leg, don’t dive for the ball, it’s too close.”

I’ll admit I never heard anything like that, and if that is Bosh’s view, which always has been the criticism of him, perhaps that’s why Miami may ultimately fail. Asik made the right play, diving for a ball that went off a Miami player and was rolling on the floor. Bosh actually dove as well and toward Asik, a routine sort of play in a game which makes fans and coaches proud of the NBA.

So Bosh was done for the night with the Bulls hanging onto a tenuous 73-70 lead to open the fourth quarter and merely keeping things going for the Rose and Wade show to conclusion. Yes, we’ll want to see this again.

“Two great players with one great play after the next,” said Thibodau. “Both have the ability to make something out of nothing. Wade got going with the huge first half. We made a couple of plays down the stretch that made the difference.”

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