A look at the 2-2 season split between Bulls/Heat


May 5

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The Bulls and Miami Heat have had intense engagements, if not quite a fill blown rivalry, since the arrival of LeBron James and Chris Bosh in Miami after both passed on offers from the Bulls along with Dwyane Wade. That first season, the Bulls swept the Heat 3-0 in the regular season with the infamous last game going to the Bulls by a point and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra saying Heat players afterward were in tears of frustration. Those misgivings went to the Bulls in the conference finals as the Heat won in five games, the fifth back in the United Center after the Bulls had a 12-point lead with three minutes remaining. Last season, the teams split 2-2 as they appeared to be eying one another for a brutal playoff showdown until Derrick Rose injured his knee in the first playoff game and the top seeded Bulls were eliminated in the first round. Again this season, the series has been intense with a 2-2 split and perhaps the Bulls’ regular season highlight in stopping Miami’s 27-game winning streak even with Joakim Noah out injured. Here’s a look at the four games:

January 4 in Miami. Bulls win 96-89.

It was one of the rare, fully healthy games for the Bulls this season, noting, of course, the absence of Derrick Rose. That game was infamous, and not forgotten by Miami, for Noah’s comments afterward that, “I don’t know if that small ball is going to work against us.” The Bulls had a 48-28 edge in rebounds, 20-7 in second chance points and 19-4 on the offensive boards. Carlos Boozer, the Bulls leader against Miami this season averaging 19 points and 15 rebounds, had 27 points and 12 rebounds in another strong game in Miami, where he lives in the offseason. Nate Robinson had 13 off the bench, most down the stretch in fourth quarter. Boozer diving on the floor for a loose ball and Robinson flying out of bounds for a save were instrumental with the big hustle plays. LeBron James became frustrated with the officials and got into an animated discussion one time and Spoelstra said afterward: “There’s not a whole lot to say. You (media) guys already could write your stories. Everyone understands in both locker rooms what the overwhelming key to the game was. They pounded us. They pounded us on second chance points. They were just throwing it up there and playing volleyball against us. It’s not the first time we got pounded by Chicago on the glass. They had us on our heels the entire night on that backboard.” “It’s a reoccurrence,” said James. “We got smashed on the glass.”

Feb. 21 in Chicago. Miami wins 86-67.

Luol Deng, LeBron James

The Bulls obviously got Miami’s attention again and the Heat harassed the Bulls into their lowest scoring home game in a decade. The Bulls had just a slight edge rebounding as they were smothered by Miami’s defense with Kirk Hinrich out and Robinson starting at point guard and the offense stagnant. The Bulls were a bit slow coming out of an emotional All-Star break, especially for Noah in his first All-Star game. Robinson led the Bulls with 14 points and Boozer got just nine shots, fourth among the starters. “It was supposed to be an exciting night,” said Noah. “To come out and play like that is disappointing. They kicked our (butts). But we’ll be back. Just disappointing the way we played. You got to give credit when credit is due. They’re very, very good and you can’t be hesitant when you play against a team like this. We just got to do better.” Robinson put a late body block on James on a runout again ramping up the physical play. James was dominant with 26 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists as he averaged 28 points and eight rebounds against the Bulls this season on 64 percent shooting.

March 27 in Chicago. Bulls win 101-97.

In many respects it was the game of the season in the NBA as it stopped the Heat’s historic 27-game winning streak that likely would have gone on to pass the Lakers’ famous 33 in a row. The Heat players really wanted this one and had to figure it was likely with Joakim Noah and Marco Belineli out hurt. But Luol Deng had 28 points with a pair of clutch fourth quarter threes and Boozer added 21 points and 17 rebounds. Jimmy Butler had 17 and his own fourth quarter back breaking three. The Bulls delivered some hard fouls against James, who had 32 points and complained afterward, a rarity for him, about hard fouls. James in retaliation took a cheap shot shiver against Boozer, who never budged and responded with a hard look, saying, “I’m too strong for that.” Said Boozer afterward: “It lets us know when we’re right, when we’re focused and locked in, we can beat anybody. We’re missing four big people, Jo an All-Star, D. Rose an MVP, Marco and Rip (Hamilton). Everyone stepped up and took on the challenge. We feel as long as we’re right and can play with everybody and can get healthy going into the playoffs with all our troops we’ll see that happens. The games we beat them (Miami), we dominated the boards (the Bulls in that game had a 43-31 rebounding edge and 22-8 on second chance points). We know we’re a good rebounding team. When we’re a great rebounding team we can beat everybody. Like I’ve been saying, we feel like we can play with anybody, especially if we are healthy.”

April 14 in Miami. Heat wins 105-93.

With the teams playing it out with playoff position mostly set and the Bulls without Noah and Gibson, the Bulls still outrebounded Miami 45-44 with Carlos Boozer at center getting 16 points and 20 rebounds and Jimmy Butler jumping center to start the game. The officials obviously were on notice after all the Heat complaining and the Bulls were called for more fouls than they had baskets. The Heat shot 41 free throws. Boozer popped Dwyane Wade good when he was trying to throw James a lob and Robinson for good measure gave James a shot as he was trying to go up in anticipation. Miami won with 24 from James and 22 from Wade, but you also got the sense they’d rather not have to wrestle with the Bulls in the post season.

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