Playing perhaps their toughest opponent yet, the Miami Heat never trailed against the Chicago Bulls in a 97-93 decision that featured an unusual and nail-biting end to the game.
With his team down 94-93, Derrick Rose went to the free throw line with 22 seconds remaining. He was 12-for-12 from the line up until that point, but missed both there. Joakim Noah fouled LeBron James subsequently thereafter, but James missed both shots as well. On the second free-throw attempt, Dwyane Wade ran from behind the 3-point line and prevented the ball from going out of bounds. Chris Bosh ended up with the ball, but a referee inadvertently blew his whistle.
Instead of reviewing the play, the referees decided to have a jump ball at center court, James against Taj Gibson. James tapped the ball to Mario Chalmers, but he only made one of two free-throws after getting fouled. The Bulls still had a chance, though, down 95-93 with the ball. A lot went wrong for the Heat on their final defensive possession; Chris Bosh lost his balance covering a pick-and-roll with Rose. The defending MVP got into the paint and bumped Udonis Haslem to the ground – no call though – and attempted a floater. Rose’s shot was short, and Chris Bosh secured the rebound to seal the win.
The Heat played far from a perfect game, but answered every single run the Bulls made. Despite struggling offensively, Wade made some key plays in the fourth quarter, including a floater and a nice find to James that earned him a trip to the foul line. The Heat led by eight with 2:34 left to go, but Chicago got within one with 49 seconds left. James took two contested jump shots in the final minute of the game. He should have either gotten to the rim or passed to a cutting Wade for an easy basket.
Despite some blemishes late, James played a great game, finishing with 35 points on 12-of-23 shooting from the field with 11 rebounds and five assists. He even literally jumped over John Lucas III to convert an alley-oop dunk. James also played defense on Rose in the final minutes, and the Chicago product still cannot find a few to score on him. Chris Bosh rebounded from a poor performance against New York Friday night, scoring 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting and 8-of-8 shooting from the foul line. Bosh even had 12 rebounds, outperforming Carlos Boozer, who had 10 points and nine boards. Miami won the rebounding battle against Chicago, thanks to James, Bosh and Haslem, who grabbed nine boards off the bench.
Wade struggled through the first 44 minutes of the game offensively, showing some rust that one would expect to see from a guy who hadn’t played in two weeks. But in the final few minutes, he played with an extra pep in his step. He used his explosive first step to get to the basket and even chased Rip Hamilton off screens with more urgency. Erik Spoelstra continues to play Wade lower than his usual amount of minutes. He only played for 30 minutes tonight, but when he starts to play in the 36-38 minute range, expect LeBron James to rest more.
Now standing 10 games over .500 at 15-5, the Heat will face the New Orleans Hornets tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.