As this game was preparing to tipoff, you could see the focus and intensity on the faces of the Heat players. The AAA got louder and louder as the usual late-arriving Sunday afternoon crowd gave this one a playoff-like atmosphere. As neither team wanted to make any mistakes as the game got underway, that translated into a slow start for everyone. Over the first 6 minutes of the game, each team hit just 3 field goals as the Heat make 3-of-7 and Chicago hit just 3-of-9 while turning the ball 4 times.
Both teams finally began to find a groove and got contributions from all over the lineup. The Heat would have taken a nice lead into the 2nd if not for Luol Deng hitting an open trey with just seconds left in the 1st. Miami kept their slight advantage into the next quarter, starting the period with an 8-2 run to go up by 10. Mid-way through the 2nd Chicago went on their own 8-2 to get back within 3 of the Heat.
The streaky play continued as the half drew to a close, and this time it was Miami's turn. They outscored the Bulls 13-4 over a 3½ minute span, but just like in the 1st quarter Chicago would get 3 late points to trim the lead just before play ended. This time it was Derrick Rose hitting a nice little 8-footer while drawing a foul on Mario Chalmers, and after he completed the 3-point play, the Heat took a 49-40 lead into the break. Rose actually scored the final 7 points of the 1st half for Chicago.
A few minutes went by in the 3rd quarter and Miami was still clinging to an 8-point lead. That's when the Bulls slowly began to chip away, using big guys Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer to cause problems and create driving lanes. Between the two of them and Derrick Rose, Chicago closed the 3rd on a little 13-7 run that cut down the Heat's lead to just 2 as we entered the final 12 minutes.
It took Miami over 2½ minutes to score their first points of the 4th quarter, and by the halfway point they were being outscored by the Bulls 11-6. The almost scripted streakiness continued; first the Bulls went over 3 minutes hitting just one field goal which allowed the Heat to tie the game thanks to a pair of Dwyane Wade free throws.
Then it was Miami's turn, as they went 4½ minutes with only one field goal. Derrick Rose took advantage and with the game tied scored 6 quick points, leaving Miami with 3:30 on the clock to try and erase the deficit. LeBron hit a pair of jumpers, and then with just over a minute left he faked a 3-pointer fed the ball to a wide-open Mario Chalmers who drilled a huge game-tying triple.
Chicago came out of the timeout wanting to get the ball to Kyle Korver, and Derrick Rose did just that. Korver tried to lose Mike Miller on a screen but Miller didn't byte and contested the straightaway 3 attempt that came up just short. Again the ball would be in LeBron's hands, and again he would give it up to Mario Chalmers. Joakim Noah came out to contest Rio as Rose stayed with D-Wade and Deng stuck to LeBron.
Rio went right around Noah and was probably in shock as nobody came to help, which gave Chalmers a wide-open lane to drive the ball and lay it in. Those would be the final points scored by the Heat. Luol Deng was fouled while taking a shot on the other end, and hit one of his two free throws. After missing the 2nd one, the ball hit off the back rim and came right back out towards the foul line, creating the call that has gotten a ton of attention.
The ball first went right through the hands of LeBron James, then back out towards Deng. After taking the shot, Luol did his best ‘deer in the headlights' impersonation. He froze with his arms still in the air, as players often do, well after the shot had been missed. He, Mike Miller and Dwyane Wade all went for the rebound, but Wade and Miller began coming forward as soon as the ball left Deng's hands.
Miami ended up with the ball, but a foul was called on Miller for pushing Deng in the back. After watching the replay in slow motion several times, it doesn't look as though Miller had anything to do with Deng's thrust forward towards the ball. However, at normal speed, with the ref's seeing Miller's hand on Deng's back as he fell forward, that foul is going to get called 99 times out of 100.
Whether it was a good or bad call, if you're the Heat, you simply can't put yourself in a situation where the game can be won or lost by a call from an official. After Deng hit both of the free throws, Miami now found themselves trailing by one with 15 seconds left. Wade inbounded the ball to LeBron, who was being guarded by Noah at the top of the key.
The rest of the Heat spread the floor, and it seemed pretty obvious that James was about to drive the ball and try to score that way. He got to the basket, but with Noah on his hip had to put the ball up high to avoid getting blocked. LeBron put it a bit too high and the ball went off the glass and right out the other side, never touching the rim. Wade ended up collecting the loose ball rebound and put up a quick turnaround fadeaway jumper that came up short as time expired.
- Mike Miller missed several wide-open looks as his search for consistency continues. He went 0-for-5 from the field in 31 minutes, missing 4 treys.
- Miami has now lost 5 of their last 6 games. Each loss came at the hands of a team that is above .500.
- In 4 of those 5 losses, the Heat held a double-digit lead at some point during the game.
- After getting killed from downtown in their previous two games, Miami held the Bulls to just 3-for-14 from 3-point range.
- The Heat is now 5-13 in games decided by 5 points or less.
- Dwyane Wade turned the ball over 7 times
- LeBron James led the Heat in minutes (41:50) field goals (10), points (26), rebounds (8) and assists (6).
Miami will look to get back in the win column on Tuesday night when they host the Portland Trail Blazers. Until then...you stay classy, South Florida.