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Jermaine O'Neal scores season-high 25 points; Heat win 5th straight home game

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This one was a pretty good game for the most part, and I particularly liked how the Heat were able to keep their lead despite D-Wade having one of his worst halves of the season.  One of the more exciting points of the game came in the 4th quarter when several Bulls players were more then a little upset with a flagrant foul call on Brad Miller.  Several technical fouls were given out and Kirk Hinrich got tossed. 

Jermaine O'Neal got the Heat started by scoring its first six points (2 field goals, 2 free throws), then Quentin Richardson showed that his hot hand was still smoking by drilling back-to-back-to-back triples, two of which came on nice quick assists by Carlos Arroyo. Q finished the opening quarter with four 3-pointers and as a team the Heat hit five, the most in one quarter this season by Miami.

Chicago started the 2nd quarter with 4 turnovers on their first 5 possessions, allowing the Heat to stretch their lead to 10.  The Bulls used a 7-0 run to get back within 3, but Jermaine O'Neal gave the Heat a little breathing room by scoring 8 in a row for the home team.  J-O had a monster 1st half, leading the Heat with 17 points.  Chicago was able to creep back into the game despite trailing by 10 more then once, trailing by just 1 at the half. 

Kirk Hinrich was doing his usual amazing job defending D-Wade, holding out superstar to just 5 points on a mere 1-for-3 shooting.  I find it interesting that Joel Anthony sit on the bench all but two minutes during the 2nd quarter after being very productive and proving a nice spark of energy throughout the 1st quarter.  Joel started the 2nd half and immediately swatted his third block of the game.  Shortly after he was fouled attempting a layup and sunk both free throws.

Miami found their groove in the 3rd quarter and so did D-Wade.  After a thundering dunk got his scoring going, he then was part of four of the Heat's next five field goals, scoring two and getting assists on the others.  As for the Heat, after trailing early in the quarter they outscored the Bulls by 11 and took a nice 12-point lead into the 4th

Mario Chalmers started the 4th quarter by sandwiching a pair of turnovers with a 3-pointer, then shortly after took another one of his ‘early in the shot clock' triples that I hate.  We're winning, need to milk the clock...and here is Rio chucking up treys.  I don't care if he had made 3-of-3 at that point...play smart, we need wins. 

The Bulls went on an 8-2 run halfway through the 4th to get within 7 of Miami, but Q responded with a late shot clock triple.  Soon after, the Bulls collectively surrounded the refs after a flagrant foul call on D-Wade by Brad Miller.  Kirk Hinrich was given a T, then right after that Brad Miller was also T-ed up.

Wade then took his two free throws, hitting one, and then Heinrich was still hot and went after the ref, grabbing his arm and getting himself tossed out of the game.  The end result of all that was 5 foul shots for Miami and the ball, which D-Wad turned into his 22nd points of the night.  That whole exchange allowed the Heat to pull away, as well as show the frustration of a Bulls team that seems to be fading away from the playoff picture. 

Miami now holds a 2½ game lead over Chicago for the 8th and final playoff spot, and the Bulls get to look forward to games against Dallas and Cleveland next week.   Miami made up for a sub-par night from Dwyane Wade by getting contributions from all over the lineup; 3 starters scored over 20 points, including D-Wade.  Quentin Richardson and Mario Chalmers shot a combined 12-of-17 from beyond the arc.  This is what I would call a great team effort on a night where Dwyane took quite a while to get going. 

Jermaine O'Neal continues to shoot the lights out this season, logging a season high 25-points on 8-of-13 shooting and 9-of-11 from the foul line to go with his 6 boards.  What I've been particularly impressed with has been the improvement in his free throw shooting.  In 2009 he shot 66.2% from the charity stripe but since the turn of the new-year he's hit 76.1% of his free throws. 

GAME NOTES

  • Quentin Richardson hit four 3-pointers in the 1st quarter and finished the game with 7.  It was the third time this year he hit 7 shots from beyond the arc and his 6th straight game with at least 2.  He finished with 23 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and a block. 
  • Joel Anthony did a great job filling in for an injured Michael Beasley.  He scored 6 points on 2-of-3 shooting; hit both his free throws and grabbed 10 rebounds, a season high.  He also had 2 assists and there was a noticeable energy boost for the Heat when Joel was in the game. 
  • Also, it was the 11th time this season that Anthony recorded at least 3 blocks. 
  • Mario Chalmers had a great shooting night, hitting 5-of-6 from beyond the arc.  The 5 triples tied a season high, but he only had 2 assists.
  • Leading the Heat in assists with 6 was D-Wade, which should be expected on a night where it was very difficult for him to get any offense going with Kirk Hinrich draped all over him for most of the night (until he got tossed).  Wade shot 6-of-13 in the 2nd half, scoring 17 of his 22 points. 
  • Carlos Arroyo had a rough night shooting the ball, missing 8 of his 10 shots.  Both makes came in the 2nd half, and he still came away with 4 rebounds and 4 assists. 

Can't complain much about this one.  A 5th straight win at home is great, especially when you consider that the Heat play a lot of home games down the stretch and are fighting not only for playoff positioning, but for a playoff spot all together.  Miami will go for their 6th straight at the AAA on Sunday when the Sixers come to town.