The race for the top spot in the Eastern Conference is not quite over yet. The Miami Heat won a playoff-type slug-fest over the Chicago Bulls in Miami to draw within 1.5 games in the Eastern Conference standings. The Bulls, who were without star point guard Derrick Rose once again, could have clinched the top spot and home court throughout the Eastern Conference Playoffs with a win. But the Heat had other ideas.
”We wanted it bad, but they wanted it more,” Bulls Forward Joakim Noah said. ”That can’t happen.”
Lebron James scored 27 points to lead the Heat in their low scoring 83-72 win. ”This is what the postseason is all about,” James said. ”Both teams struggling to score offensively, and defensively, two very good defensive teams. It’s a possession game. That’s what happens in the postseason. The game slows down. Not many fast-break points. You’ve got to work for every attempt, work for every shot.”
Miami won without Chris Bosh. Dwayne Wade added 18 points and Mario Chalmers had 16. Udonis Haslem grabbed 10 rebounds for the Heat who held the Bulls to their season low 72 points.
”This season’s been a long, short year,” Wade said. ”But this is the time of the year we all love and enjoy.”
The game was full of aggressive play as there were several technicals, some flagrant fouls and even an ejection on a flagrant 2 foul on the Heat’s James Jones for contact near Joakim Noah’s head on a rebound attempt.
”Every time we play them that’s how it’s going to be,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ”You have to have the mental toughness to get through all of that.”
Long time rivals Dwayne Wade and Richard Hamilton later got into a shoving match. This ended with techs called on each and a flagrant 1 on Wade.
‘Two people that are trying to out-will each other and fight to help their team win,” Hamilton said.
And then things really got hot a few minutes later, not long after James was pulled down under the basket. James set a screen to free Chalmers from some pressure and was run into by John Lucas, who gives up 9 inches and 85 pounds to the two-time NBA MVP. Predictably, Lucas, who led the Bulls with 16 points in the game, went flying. Even more predictably, Lucas – who was leapfrogged for a dunk by James in Chicago’s first trip to Miami this season – got angry.
”I knew I had him,” James said.
If things are getting this chippy already, the Eastern Conference Finals should really be something.