Heat smother Bulls in Game 4 as LeBron James scores 27

CHICAGO — LeBron James and the Miami Heat didn’t even give the Chicago Bulls room to breathe, practically squeezing the playoff life out of them to take a commanding lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal.

Another effort like this will seal it.

James scored 27 points and the Heat nearly matched a franchise record for fewest points allowed in a playoff game, pounding the listless and short-handed Bulls 88-65 on Monday night to take a 3-1 lead in the series.

“We worked for it,” said Heat forward Chris Bosh. “I never like to say that things are easy.”

The Heat sure made it look that way, though.

The 65 points allowed were only two more than the all-time postseason low for a Miami opponent, and it was easily the worst offensive performance by a Chicago team in the playoffs.

Never before had the Bulls scored fewer than 69 in a playoff game nor 10 or less in a quarter during the postseason, but both those marks fell on a night when they were dominated on both ends of the floor.

Miami led by 11 at the half and put this one away in the third quarter, outscoring Chicago 17-9 in the period.

Now the Heat will try to wrap up the series at home Wednesday night, taking what they hope will be the next step toward a second straight championship.

It’s hard to believe the Bulls won the series opener the way the past three games have gone.

Miami pounded Chicago in Game 2, coming away with its most lopsided playoff victory while handing the Bulls their worst ever postseason loss — and the Heat continued to roll from there.

James had his usual complete game with eight assists and seven rebounds Monday.

Bosh finished with 14 points after scoring 20 and grabbing 19 rebounds in Game 3, and the Heat won again despite another quiet night from Dwyane Wade (six points), whose right knee was bothering him again. He appeared to land hard on it taking a fallaway jumper in the third quarter but was able to return to the game after getting re-taped.

“It’s frustrating at times, but you just try to do what you can,” Wade said.

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