That’s why the Eastern Conference finals are tied at 1-1 headed back to Miami with the Heat in control of homecourt advantage.
The Bulls, down by 11 in the third quarter, tied the game on a basket by Taj Gibson with a little more than seven minutes to go and then squandered several chances to take the lead against the determined Heat. Chicago managed just one basket the rest of the way, scoring only 10 in the fourth quarter of an 85-75 loss.
The Bulls shot only 34 percent and were 4 for 16 in the last period. MVP Derrick Rose was just 7-for-23 shooting, missing all four of his attempts in the fourth, and finishing with 21 points.
Chicago limited the Heat to two points over the first 7 1-2 minutes of the final quarter, keeping James, Wade and Bosh scoreless. But with several chances to take the lead, the Bulls misfired and finally James found the range.
He hit a 3-pointer and then another jumper and Miami finished it off, responding after its 21-point loss in the opener Sunday night.
The Bulls‘ defense, so tenacious in Game 1, wasn’t able to stop James and Wade from getting inside the lane where they could go to the rim or draw fouls. And they couldn’t keep the Heat from breaking out during the third quarter when they were sparked by Udonis Haslem, who gave the Bulls problems inside and out.
“He’s one of those guys _ and you really can’t measure him statistically _ he brings a lot of toughness to their team, high energy guy, terrific defensively,” Thibodeau said.
Chicago’s staggering 31 second-chance points and 19-6 offensive rebounding edge in Game 1 was also offset by the Heat’s hustle. Miami still got beat on the offensive glass 17-10 but won the overall board play 45-41. And this time the Bulls had only 18 second-chance points.
“We played low-energy offense, we played low-energy defense and the result was not great,” Thibodeau said.
Home court gone, the Bulls now head to Miami where they won in their only appearance in the regular season.
They’ll have to find their shooting touch. Luol Deng was 5 for 15, Carlos Boozer 3 for 10 and 3-point artist Kyle Korver just 1 for 7.
Maybe it was tougher Miami defense and maybe it just was one of those nights.
Chicago pulled down seven offensive rebounds in first seven minutes and then only two the remainder of the half. And they missed 14 of their first 18 field goal attempts, setting the tone for the night.