Like many Heat fans, Erik Spoelstra was at a loss for words by the time this one ended.
After all the waiting and all the hype, the Miami Heat finally got off to a good start after starting several games on the slow side. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James each had their own big slam dunk to open the scoring as the Bulls appeared to be a bit nervous, turning the ball over 3 times in the first few minutes. Chris Bosh had a great 1st quarter, scoring 9 points on 4-of-5 shooting to go with 5 boards, and Miami took a 23-20 lead after 1.
The Bulls shot just 34.8% in the opening quarter while Miami made 45.0%. A big play early in the 2nd came when Taj Gibson dunked the ball all over Dwyane Wade, which will happen to players who constantly go for shot blocks. Thankfully it didn't shift the momentum and the game continued to go back and fourth. At one point of the quarter the Heat led by as many as 6, but Chicago did a good job in transition and as expected, got a lot of 2nd chance points.
Miami went over two minutes late in the half without scoring and that allowed the Bulls to go on a little 7-0 run to go up by 2. Chris Bosh responded with back-to-back buckets in the final 2 minutes and the game went into the break tied at 48. Bosh led all scorers with 17 and the Big 3 accounted for 39 of the Heat's 48 points. One thing that Miami didn't do in the 1st half was hit any triples, only attempting two shots from beyond the arc, but they did however go 10-of-10 from the free throw line.
Chicago really turned up the intensity in the 3rd quarter, and while both teams were playing very solid defense the Bulls were also producing on the other end of the floor. A couple of times late in the quarter they got their lead all the way up to 9 points, which is the lead that they took into the 4th after Luol Deng hit a triple after another offensive rebound by Chicago, their 16th of the game.
All those 2nd chances for the Bulls were keeping the Heat from getting chances of their own, which is why that even though Miami was shooting close to 50% from the field (47.3% after 3) they had scored only 63 points. Meanwhile, Chicago was shooting under 40% but had 72 points. Things didn't get better for the Heat when the final quarter began; they scored just 3 points over the first 4:12, allowing the Bulls to pump their lead all the way up to 17.
The closest that Miami got in the 4th quarter was within 12 points, and after a pair of Chris Bosh free throws with 5:11 left it seemed like the Heat just took the rest of the game off. Chicago would have finished the game scoring 11 straight points over the last 5 minutes if not for a Mario Chalmers layup with 23 seconds left. The Bulls scoring was capped off by Taj Gibson's second highlight slam dunk of the game, a play that I am hoping will just add to the motivation of Miami to come back and take care of business on Wednesday.
It will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments Erik Spoelstra and his staff make before Game 2. Miami definitely had more success offensively when they put out their ‘small' lineup with Bosh being the only big guy out there with LeBron, Wade, James Jones and Chalmers, but that lineup struggled on the defensive end, especially when it came to rebounding the ball. We'll just have to wait and see how and with what lineup combination the Heat respond with.
Still, even with the offensive ‘success', the Bulls played downright suffocating defense. Miami is going to have to figure out how to handle Chicago offensively because they got slapped in the face last night and its quite obvious that they need to make some changes if they are going to win this series. Finding a big lineup that can score some points would be one thing, but also they need to get back to what has been working for them all season, and that is rebounding the ball and getting out into the open court.
- Miami shot just 3-of-8 from downtown while the Bulls hit 10-of-21.
- Statistically Chris Bosh had a great game, leading the Heat with 30 points on 12-of-18 shooting and a perfect 6-of-6 at the foul line. He also led the team in rebounds with 9.
- LeBron and D-Wade combined for 33 points on 12-of-32 shooting with 9 boards and 9 assists.
- Chicago was dominant on the glass, out-rebounding Miami 43-33.
- The Bulls also had 19 offensive rebounds, resulting in 23 second-chance points.
- The Heat was perfect from the foul line, making all 15 of their free throws. Still, 15 isn't exactly a lot for this team to take.
- Miami shot 47.1% from the field and scored just 82 points. Chicago shot 43.7% from the field and scored 103 points.
With all the things that the Heat have to work on before Game 2, it works out to their benefit that they have until Wednesday to figure things out. Hopefully they do just that...