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Bulls on the brink

Miami pushes the Chicago Bulls to the binrk of elimination in the NBA playoffs
ANDREW SELIGMAN
Posted on May. 13, 2013 at 1:00 a.m.

CHICAGO — LeBron James scored 27 points and the Miami Heat nearly matched a franchise record for points allowed in a playoff game, pounding the listless and short-handed Chicago Bulls 88-65 on Monday night to take a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

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.

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 on 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.

Chris 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, who finished with six points. Norris Cole also struggled with seven points after back-to-back 18-point performances, but the Heat had more than enough in this one.

They shot about 49 percent while the Bulls set a franchise playoff low at 25.7 percent. They were particularly bad from the outside, going 2 for 17 from 3-point range.

The Bulls again were missing ailing Luol Deng and injured Kirk Hinrich (calf), and a team that kept finding ways to win despite being short-handed all season simply appeared to run out of steam.

Carlos Boozer had 14 points and 12 rebounds for his fifth double-double in the postseason but was just 3 of 14 from the field. Jimmy Butler scored 12 and Joakim Noah grabbed nine rebounds, but it was a miserable night for Chicago — particularly Nate Robinson, who missed all 12 shots and did not score.

James scored 15 points and Bosh added 12 in the first half to help the Heat take a 44-33 lead at the break, but that doesn’t even come close to telling the complete story.

Consider this.

Miami shot just under 53 percent, with the Bulls at about 27 percent. Chicago was also 1 of 11 on 3-pointers, and the only conversion from long range came from Richard Hamilton.

Remember him?

After playing a grand total of 10 minutes over two playoff appearances, coach Tom Thibodeau turned to him early in the second quarter with Miami threatening to put the game away.

The veteran guard entered to loud cheers with the Bulls trailing 30-17 after back-to-back 3-pointers by Shane Battier and Ray Allen, and the crowd was roaring after Hamilton nailed a wide open 3 from up top and Taj Gibson converted a three-point play.

That made it a seven-point game, but the Bulls couldn’t sustain any momentum. The Heat suffocated them on both ends, squeezing a little harder every time Chicago made a push.

There was no energy from the Bulls, none of the resourcefulness that carried them to 45 wins during the regular season and to the second round in the playoffs.

They were trailing 44-31 with about 40 seconds left after James made a neat spin move on the break and got fouled by Nate Robinson for a three-point play.

Notes: The Heat and Bulls were well represented on the NBA’s all-defensive first team, with James and Noah being selected. ... Thibodeau had nothing to say about the $35,000 fine from the league for comments he made about the officiating in Game 3. Asked if he was surprised by the amount, he said, “I’ve got no comment on that. We’re just getting ready for Game 4.” ... Deng was listed as active after initially being ruled out for Chicago. Hinrich and Rose were inactive.



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