Early in the season a lot was made of the Miami Heat's inability to finish games. But in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron James put some of that criticism to rest on Wednesday.
After the Bulls tied the game at 73-73 midway through the fourth quarter, the Heat closed with a 12-2 run to win 85-75. The victory evened the series at one game each, as Chicago heads to Miami for Game 3 on Sunday.
When the Heat needed buckets down the stretch, LeBron was the go-to guy. He scored 9 of the Heat’s last 12 points, including a big 3-pointer with the shot clock running down. The Bulls had no answer, not even from Chicago’s hometown hero and the NBA's most valuable player Derrick Rose.
Chicago’s offensive problems weren’t just a fourth-quarter issue. The offense looked out of sync for much of the game, and Rose didn’t attack the basket as often as he had in previous games.
The Bulls became a jump-shooting team for much of the night. After making 10 3-pointers in Game 1, the Bulls shot just 3-for-20 from beyond the arc in Game 2.
The Bulls' front line crashed the offensive glass on those missed jumpers and Chicago’s energy and athleticism helped pull in 17 offensive rebounds. But unlike in their series-opening win, the Bulls couldn’t cash in on those second-chance opportunities. The team had 14 more field-goal attempts than Miami, but shot just 34 percent from the field.
Taj Gibson was a big spark early in the fourth quarter, but didn’t have nearly the impact as Sunday night. His performance was representative of the entire Bulls’ bench, which combined for only 20 points on the night. In comparison, Miami’s Udonis Haslem had 13 points alone.
With their three big stars, the Heat tend to go into isolation mode on offense, especially in the fourth quarter. Also Miami’s ball movement was much improved in Game 2.
Whether it was Mike Bibby or Mike Miller creating shots for others off the dribble or Dwyane Wade and LeBron playing the pick-and-roll, the Heat were solid offensively. They scored 50 points in the paint, compared with 34 for the Bulls.
Following Game 2, both teams looked exhausted, even after a three-day rest. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra told his players after the game that it was going to take that kind of effort to pull off three more victories to reach the championship.
With the series tied at 1-1, the Bulls can still look at this game in a positive light. Despite the team’s woeful shooting and lack of production from the frontcourt, the Bulls still gave the Heat all they could handle and had several opportunities to take the lead late in the fourth quarter.
Don’t expect any 20-point blowouts from either side the rest of the way. Dig in, because it’s going to be a battle. Miami proved that much on Wednesday.