MIAMI — Did you feel that? No it wasn’t an earthquake.
It was the earth shaking from the Bulls slamming the Heat into check in Miami.
The Bulls rolled into Miami hot off their Friday night win over the Magic and they carried that momentum into AmericanAirlines Arena Sunday.
But it almost wasn’t. The game came down to the wire and it was a missed last second shot by Dwayne Wade that sealed the deal for Chicago. But a win is a win and this particular W puts the Bulls above their previous season win total by a two, and put them two losses ahead of the Heat in the East making Chicago the sole owners of 2nd place behind the Celtics.
Miami is finally in the rear-view.
The game went as it usually does for Chicago. The first quarter was abysmal. The Bulls couldn’t get anything huge going and also couldn’t stop the onslaught by the Heat. Lebron was making plays, Dwayne Wade was making plays, and the Bulls simply weren’t.
But Chicago is a late bloomer.
A very, very late bloomer.
Much like the first go-around with the Heat, Chicago didn’t really put it into gear until the second half of the game. This was one of Chicago’s many struggles on Sunday. Shots would fall short, get blocked in the paint, or just miss entirely (See Bogus Bogans).
The tables were turned on Chicago in Miami as every time the Bulls would gain ground, the heat would scorch Chicago’s defense to erase the Bulls progress.
However as the third quarter barreled onward, the Bulls kept chipping away at the Heat. This proved to be a problem for Miami. Before the Heat would answer every Bulls bucket with a bucket of their own.
But soon after, the buckets for Miami turned into misses and the Bull baskets kept falling in.
Miami was hungry for three’s in an attempt to put the game away as quickly as possible. After all, they must obviously be aware of their incredible knack for fumbling close games away down the stretch.
But when those three’s started bouncing off the rim and into the hands of Joakim Noah or Carlos Boozer, the little baskets the Bulls were making started to add up. Those baskets for Chicago turned into frustration for Miami.
That frustration turned into fouls. And those fouls turned into free points from the free throw line for the Bulls.
Once all of these variables narrowed and eventually gave the lead back to Chicago, the Bulls do as they always do and didn’t let up. Once Miami lost the lead to Chicago with about 10 minutes left, they lost the game.
The game did come down to the wire and Derrick Rose continued his impressive MVP campign. But as always he was humble about winning and hard on himself for almost losing the game.
“I’m always happy to get a win, but I’m not smiling because my turnover almost cost us the game.” The always humble Rose was quick to switch the topic back to his teammates. “They backed me up. They’re great.”
How About A Little Defense?
The game started as a promising defensive battle. That continued throughout the game, but it was Chicago finding themselves on the short end of the stick.
The defense was so bad in the first half that one of the top performers was Keith Bogans and his actual lock down performance on Dwayne Wade.
The Bulls allowed 49 points in the first half, and let LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh run wild like animals all over the court. It wasn’t until the second half that the Bulls defense started to look like the Bulls everyone has become familiar with.
Chicago suffered in the paint against the Magic on Friday defensively and those struggles followed them to Miami.
But once the Bulls, or Los Bulls as they were known as Sunday, learned to hold down Miami’s Big 3, the tone of the game changed. James, Wade and Bosh had nearly all of the Heats total points, as the Heat’s bench continued to get outplayed by that of the Bulls. Omer Asik also showed no signs of stopping the roll he is on.
Although Chris Bosh didn’t have the terrible game he did in Chicago the last meeting, he was held in check pretty well throughout the game.
And as much as i pains me, much props must be given to Keith Bogans for his containment of Dwayne Wade. Wade was pretty much a non-factor until the 4th quarter Sunday and of the Big 3, Wade had the lowest point total. In fact most of Wade’s points came when other guys was tasked with covering him.
It was the defense all around however, that almost lost the game for Chicago. The game came down to the final seconds and the Bulls really didn’t show up until the second half.
The Road Ahead
With the Bulls firmly sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference, their focus now shifts from Boston and Miami to just Boston. It also means the mainstream sports media has shifted their view of all things NBA holy from Miami and Boston to Chicago and Boston.
The win in Miami on Sunday did more than just propel Chicago over the Heat in the standings, it now places the spotlight that was on Miami directly on Chicago. Miami is falling and Chicago has been rising above everyone as of late.
The Bulls head back to Chicago to face New Orleans which starts a stretch of games that includes home games against the Jazz and Hawks. The Bulls are rolling and it’s their position in the standings to lose. But if they keep playing the way they are, Chicago is positioned well for a deep playoff run.