By Surya Fernandez
We keep hearing that the Chicago Bulls "didn't need" LeBron James and Dwyane Wade after both of them declined to sign with them.
Maybe they could have used Chris Bosh instead.
Bosh scored more than 30 points again this series, only two out of the five times he's reached that mark this season. He scored rather easily throughout on a variety of mid-range jump shots, spin moves, and multiple trips to the lane thanks to some fancy footwork and a confident shot.
"Bosh was terrific right from the start of the game," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. "Very aggressive. And I thought we allowed him to get his confidence early. And then he's hard to slow down once he gets going like that. We gave him too much space. We didn't challenge his shot properly. So he had a big night.
The only way the Bulls can win this series is either beating the Heat three straight times or winning three of the next four games. The Heat by contrast only need to play .500 ball through the next four games to close it out. And if the MVP of this league, Derrick Rose, doesn't start playing like he completely deserved that award it won't get that far.
Even if he does play at a supremely high level, it might not even matter if the rest of the Bulls can't give Rose more production than the Heat's minimized 8-man rotation is yielding.
The Bulls briefly had the lead at 51-50 in the third quarter on a jumper by Rose but never again held the lead after being behind throughout the game. He was largely ineffective, disappeared through stretches of the game, hogged the ball with just five assists to show for it, and to top it off was a no-show in the fourth quarter - when his team need him the most. When the supposed Most Valuable Player only takes (and misses) two shots in the final quarter while having three turnovers then his team is guaranteed to lose.
"If anything, you're going to miss your shots, but our defense, that was the key of the game, where I think we let them shoot 50% in the playoffs and we call ourselves a defensive team," Rose said afterwards. "That's definitely not going to work against a team like that, where they've got great players and great shooters on their team."
Carlos Boozer was really the only Bull to step up and he did it despite a slow start in which he was held scoreless on 0-5 shooting in the first quarter. He closed with 26 points and 17 rebounds but it wasn't enough for the Bulls to go on a scoring run to actually take and hold a lead against the Heat, much like the Celtics failed to do. With the Heat defense locking down their opponents, scoring is just one headache to deal with while one of the Big 3 is able to score consistently on the other side.
Home-court advantage remains on the Heat's side and the late 8:30 tipoff time was perfect for South Florida as the seats were filled and fans were ready to go at the start of the game, a rarity this season but a welcome sight indeed.
In addition, the Heat are getting quality minutes from Udonis Haslem precisely when they needed him the most in a series where Joel Anthony hasn't had the profound impact on the series that he had against the Philadelphia Sixers and the Boston Celtics. But the Warden's early blocks were a quick reminder to the Bulls that there wasn't going to be too many easy baskets near the rim like there was in Game 1.
LeBron was a force on both ends of the floor proving why he's the most dominant player in the league. While he scored a seemingly tame 22 points on 6-13 shooting for the game, it's when he has scored that has mattered so much this postseason. Tonight was just another example of how quickly LeBron and Wade can turn it on to break their opponents' backs and grind out victories for their team in crunch time. Truth be told however, this Heat team is clearly a more formidable opponent than anyone figured they would be at the start of the postseason and are hitting their stride at the perfect time.
Six more to go for that ring, another opportunity arrives on Tuesday.
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