By CRA News Service and other news sources
Chris Bosh scored 34 points, LeBron James added 22 and the Miami Heat took a 2-1 lead in the Heat’s first Eastern Conference finals game at AmericanAirlines Arena in five years on Sunday night.
The Heat beat the Chicago Bulls 96-85.
All night it was as if the Bulls dared Chris Bosh to beat them. He obliged, reminding a packed and raucous arena that the least appreciated member of the Big 3 is no third wheel. Bosh finished with 34 points on 13-of-18 shooting, offering the best postseason performance of his career Sunday. The Heat now leads the Bulls 2-1 in the best-of-7 series with Game 4 on Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“I just wanted to be aggressive and have an imprint on this series,” Bosh said.
The building on the bay shook with excitement with 5:07 left after James stole a pass from Derrick Rose and sprinted coast-to-coast for an electrifying three-point play to give the Heat an 87-74 lead. The Heat’s defense dominated the Bulls for long stretches Sunday, holding Chicago to 41.6 percent shooting, including 25 percent in the first quarter. League MVP Rose finished with 20 points on 8-of-19 shooting.
The Heat forced 13 turnovers and blocked eight shots, including five from center Joel Anthony.
James finished with 22 points, shooting 6 of 13 from the field to go along with 10 assists and six rebounds. James’ 13 field goals were two more than his playoff low (2007). James’ layup with 2:04 left gave the Heat a 91-82 lead.
Dwyane Wade finished with 17 points on 6-of-16 shooting. He had nine important rebounds to go along with three assists. James, Wade and Bosh combined to shoot 22 of 25 from the foul line.
Bosh carried the Heat during the second quarter and then again to begin the final period. He had eight consecutive points in the final period that gave the Heat a 78-72 lead. In one elegant move, Bosh spun past Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah with seven minutes to play and then threw down a powerful dunk to give the Heat a six-point lead.
Offense was hard to come by throughout, but the Heat played efficiently, finishing with 20 assists on 34 field goals. Bosh was the picture of consistency, scoring with every facet of his complex offensive game.
Rose tied the score at 47 with a three-pointer, but Mike Bibby answered on the Heat’s next possession with a three of his own. From there the lead changed hands two more times over the next three minutes until Bibby swished his second three-pointer of the quarter to give the Heat a 56-53 lead.
A baseline 18-footer by Bosh over the outstretched Noah followed by a running floater from Wade gave the Heat a quick 7-0 run and a seven-point lead.
Bosh and Mario Chalmers (but mostly Bosh) carried the Heat through the second quarter and the Heat led 43-40 at halftime. Bosh led the Heat in scoring in the first half with 16 points and 13 of them came in the second quarter. He scored nine consecutive points at one point.
Meanwhile, Chalmers had six points in the quarter. Udonis Haslem had eight points of 4-of-7 shooting in his first home game since tearing a ligament in his foot in November.
Anthony turned in a stunning defensive effort in the first two quarters. He had four blocks in the first quarter alone, which set a career high for blocks in a postseason game. He finished the half with five blocks and, along with James, was the core of the Heat’s defense that held the Bulls to 25 percent shooting in the first quarter.
Although the first quarter was dominated by two defenses that hadn’t played in three days, the second quarter offered the most offensively productive stretch of the Eastern Conference finals. Led by Bosh’s 5-of-5 effort from the field, the Heat shot 60 percent but the Bulls countered with 62.5 percent. Boozer had nine points in the quarter on 4-of-5 shooting.
Bulls center Noah lost his cool early, picking up two quick fouls and lobbing a few expletives at a fan on his way to the bench. The Heat trailed 10-9 when Noah left the game. It triggered an 8-3 run by the Heat, which led 18-15 at the end of the first quarter.
Haslem checked into the game with 1:52 left in the first quarter and fans greeted him with a prolonged standing ovation.