On a night where Dwyane Wade went 33 minutes without scoring, Lebron James picked up the slack as he has done throughout this post-season. His 35 points sparked the Heat to a 101-93 victory. As much of the basketball world marveled at Derrick Rose all year and this playoff season has been about the re-discovery of Dirk Nowitzki's greatness, King James made another statement regarding his place in the NBA. The stat line looks nice: 35 points/6 rebounds/6 assists/3 blocks/2 steals, but perhaps the most impressive part of Lebron's game tonight was his stifling defense on Chicago's best player. Although Miami used a variety of defenders against the league MVP, James was on him throughout most of the fourth quarter and overtime and Rose was limited to 23 points on 8 of 27 shooting from the field.
The win gives Miami a commanding 3-1 lead in the best of seven series, which returns to Chicago for game five Thursday night.
The Heat got a great effort off the bench from Mike Miller. He scoerd 12 points and had 9 rebounds, but (remarkably) had a +/- of 36. His impact was as important to Miami as Udonis Haslem's was in game two. UD was solid on defense and gabbed nine boards of his own - two of which were offensive. Chris Bosh had 22 points while the struggling Wade scored only 14, but did contribute 5 rebounds, two steals and three blocked shots - none bigger than one against Rose in overtime that all but sealed Chicago's fate.
Miami was down by as much as 11 in the early going and was still behind by 5 going into the fourth quarter. Both teams were playing with effort and made life miserable for each other in the half court. Chicago ended up shooting a mere 40.2%. The Heat weren't much better at 42.7% - a testimony to this being the two best defensive teams in the NBA.
Besides Lebron James' brilliant play, the difference in the game was at the free throw line. Miami out-scored the Bulls there by a 32-17 margin with the Heat making their final 24 attempts.
Chris Bosh scored the first four points in overtime and Miami never looked back.
It was a sloppy game, predicated no doubt by both teams swarming defense. The bulls turned the ball over 22 times to Miami's 16. The Heat had trouble getting into the paint. Chicago was doing a much better job with their rotations, but in the end, Miami just had too much. Carlos Boozer had 20/11 and Luol Deng 20/8 in a losing effort. This marks the first time all season Chicago has lost three in a row. Now they need to win three in a row, a feat only thrice accomplished in conference final's history.
With both Miami and Dallas leading their respective series three games to one, a 2006 Finals rematch is beginning to look like a very distict possibilty. Mike and Mike on ESPN were debating who needs a ring more, Dirk or Lebron - or rather, who it would mean more to. This is a no brainer. Lebron has become public enemy #1 and the only way for him to silence the critics is to win it all. This year. With a few more performances (five more, to be exact) like tonight's, that goal may just become a reality.