Time to get a good Avatar for the Playoffs . Right, LKF?
Bulls 89 - 81 Magic
Bulls 87 - 86 Heat
Thibodeau's fist pump proves Bulls' win over Heat not just another game
Deng's 2 free throws with :15.9 left the difference
March 06, 2011|By K.C. Johnson, Tribune reporter
MIAMI — Try telling Tom Thibodeau's right shoulder socket that Sunday marked just another game.
The Bulls' coach can talk all he wants about each game representing one of 82 and, technically, he's correct. But when Thibodeau threatened to separate his shoulder with a fist pump for the ages as the buzzer sounded on the Bulls' draining 87-86 victory over the Heat, his emotions displayed a different tale.
After the free agency musical chairs ended last summer, who knew the Heat's Big Three would take on a whole new meaning when the Bulls finished 3-0 against them, sweeping the season series?
Then again, the Bulls are focused on larger goals, now in sole possession of second in the Eastern Conference, capping a 4-1 trip with back-to-back road victories over league elites.
"We've done a good job all year just focusing on us," Luol Deng said. "All year, people want to talk about Miami. But we've done a good job of getting better and focusing on what we need to do to win."
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Deng provided the winning points with 15.9 seconds left, sinking two free throws after splitting a pair just 1.4 seconds earlier. Joakim Noah provided the extra possession by tipping Deng's missed free throw out to Deng, who scored nine of his 18 points in the fourth.
Noah then ably switched on to LeBron James on the Heat's final possession, playing solid positional defense to force a left-handed miss. The ensuing loose ball found Dwyane Wade, whose18-foot baseline jumper in the waning seconds came up short.
"We hung tough," Thibodeau said. "A lot didn't go our way in the first half. We got aggressive in the third and got back into it. It was a grind game all the way."
Perhaps nowhere did this grittiness play out more prominently than in Noah's final 18 seconds.
"Those are big-time plays," Thibodeau said.
Noah finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 35 active minutes.
"To be honest, (James) made a nice move and I tried to recover as fast as I can," Noah said. "I tried to make it as tough as possible. I wanted him to shoot over me. I guess it was good 'D.'"
The Bulls, who once trailed by 12, led 84-79 on Deng's runner with 2 minutes, 32 seconds left before an ugly stretch almost cost them.
James, who had 26, scored. Derrick Rose, who led all scorers with 27 points, turned it over and shot an air ball. Back-to-back defensive breakdowns led to Mario Chalmers swishing a wide-open 3-pointer and strolling in for an uncontested layup for an 86-84 Heat lead.
But the Bulls kept coming.
The Heat, now 4-11 against the top four teams from each conference, were desperate to avoid their fourth straight loss. In a rotational departure, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra played James and Chris Bosh, who scored 23, the entire fourth and Wade more than 10 minutes.
Fitting for the Bulls' depth, four reserves and Deng grabbed the lead early in the fourth despite Spoelstra's move. In fact, Thibodeau stuck to his rotation, with Keith Bogans grabbing the final rebound of Wade's miss.
"It's a big win for us," Noah said. "I wish we had a week to celebrate here on South Beach. But we gotta get ready for (Monday)."
Miami Heat's LeBron James (L) argues a call with official Tony Brothers during their fourth quarter against the Chicago Bulls in NBA action in Miami, Florida March 6, 2011.
Credit: Reuters/Hans Deryk
MIAMI | Mon Mar 7, 2011 11:10am EST
MIAMI (Reuters) - The star-studded Miami Heat know it is a crying shame they have struggled to win the close games and tears of frustration were shed in the locker room Sunday after their 87-86 loss to the Chicago Bulls.
The Heat, whose signing of free agents LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade last summer raised expectations of a new super team in the NBA, failed at the buzzer again and lost their fourth game in a row as James and Wade missed last-gasp shots.
"We've got to be stubborn enough to continue to put ourselves in that position and find the resiliency to break through," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters.
"This is painful for every single one of us going through this, there are a couple of guys crying in the locker room.
"It is not a matter of 'want' it is a matter of 'doing'."
Chicago (43-18), led by 27 points from guard Derrick Rose, moved past Miami (43-20) into second place in the Eastern Conference standings behind the Boston Celtics (46-15).
The pressure has been building on a Miami team that was expected to become an instant juggernaut.
The trio have delivered strong numbers, with James averaging 26.2 points, Wade 25.4 and Bosh 18.3, but have failed to find the chemistry to turn their talents into crunch-time success.
Miami has now missed 13 consecutive shots when they had a chance to tie or lead a game in the last 10 seconds of regulation or overtime.
James has missed four in this four-game losing streak.
"I told my team, I'm not going to continue to fail late in games," James said after Sunday's loss.
"I put a lot of blame on myself tonight. I told the guys that I just keep failing them late in games and I won't continue to do that."
Wade bristled when asked about the latest near-miss for a team that fans in other cities have delighted in watching them struggle.
"The Miami Heat are exactly what everyone wanted, losing games," Wade said. "The world is better now because the Heat is losing."
Despite their impressive overall record, the Heat dropped to 1-16 in games decided on the final possession and have a 1-9 mark against the NBA's top five teams.
"There's nothing else we can do other than stay together," Spoelstra said.
"We have to continue to stay with this and stay resilient...and one of these days we will break through."
(Writing by Larry Fine in New York, Editing by Julian Linden)