On a night where “pleasing to the eye” was not the phrase of record, the Miami Heat blitzed the Chicago Bulls for final 36 minutes, outscoring them 64-45, and finishing with an 86-67 road win. The headline of the night (unfortunately) stems from the Bulls setting season lows in both points scored (67) and turnovers committed (26) while Miami played an efficient brand of basketball to coast to a comfortable win.
From the opening tip, Chicago’s offense sputtered in a noticeable way, and things never really recovered against an aggressive, fast Miami defense. The Bulls shot just 36% and committed 8 turnovers in the opening frame, but managed to keep the score tied at 22-22 thanks to some hero-ball wonders from Nate Robinson, and some stingy defense. After that? The floodgates opened.
Chicago committed a staggering nine turnovers in the second quarter (17 for the half!) and watched Miami (even on cruise control) lengthen the lead to 10 at the half.
LeBron James led the way for Miami with 26 points (on 11-15 shooting), 12 rebounds, and 7 assists in just 34 minutes. It was a workmanlike effort from the King, as he operated with cold efficiency for most of the night, while exploding for small stretches (most notably in the 3rd quarter) to put Chicago away. The level that he has established, both during his recent “streak” and throughout the season, is scary, and to think that he was probably “coasting” a bit in this spot while putting up these ridiculous numbers is nothing short of amazing. Elsewhere, Dwyane Wade added 17 points and 8 rebounds for Miami, but, outside of LeBron, it was a total team effort on the offensive end, as the Heat finished the game having shot 51% from the field.
For Chicago, the combination of woeful shooting (37.5% FG, 2-10 from three) and inexplicable (and uncharacteristic) carelessness with the basketball rendered them impotent on the offensive end. Yes, Miami’s defense was absolutely suffocating at times, but seven players in Chicago’s rotation committed 3+ turnovers and, at times, it was like they were meeting each other for the first time. Miami was the team on the second leg of a road back-to-back, but the crowd never would have known it from the collective output.
Also, while we’re on the topic of crowds and their thought process, the Chicago crowd should have been taken to task (and they were by TNT’s crew) when they openly cheered a limping LeBron James during a 4th quarter ankle injury scare. Frankly, that is one of the least classy things that can be done by a home crowd, and fortunately, James was healthy enough to play the rest of the evening.
In short, this was a 48-minute reminder that Chicago can’t be taken seriously as an Eastern “contender” without the services of a healthy, productive Derrick Rose. It was certainly an extreme instance of their offensive futility, but the Bulls’ guard play was woeful for the majority of the night, and their one “creator” from the guard spot (Nate Robinson) is much better suited as a bench player who can have the full green-light than as a reliable, distributing point guard. It’s an ugly mix.
If I am Chicago, the scariest part about this game was that Miami looked to be playing at about 80-90% effort throughout the night, and they still performed at a higher, more efficient level, even in the opposing team’s building.
Oh, and the lesson as always is to never pick against Lebron James — even if he’s playing at 80%.