[Miami, FL] With an eye aimed at the playoffs, the Miami Heat chose to rest Chris Bosh for Thursday night’s home contest and potential Eastern Conference Finals preview against the tough Chicago Bulls.
That’s OK, because Derrick Rose has been struggling with a foot injury for the past couple of weeks and was also missing in this epic battle to see who truly was the elite team in the East. The game definitely had a playoff feel, for sure.
LeBron James and the Heat came out on fire in the first quarter, as King James scored 15 points and grabbed 3 rebounds in 12 minutes of play. And for the Bulls, Joakim Noah kept it close by scoring 7 points and playing great defense in the paint.
At the end of the first, the Heat were up 27-23.
Both teams got rowdy in the second. With 6 minutes left, James Jones hacked Noah, and was charged with a “flagrant 2″ foul, which meant he was ejected from the game. Both teams also struggled making their shots in the quarter, with the Bulls only outscoring the Heat, 17-15.
At halftime, the Heat were up 42-40.
Miami felt cool, calm, and collected as they started the third quarter on a 6-0 run. But that second-quarter rowdiness flared back up. With 9 minutes left, Dwyane Wade committed a “flagrant 1″ foul on Richard Hamilton during a little scuffle. Both Wade and Hamilton were charged with technical fouls.
James scored 7 points and notched 2 assists the Heat ended the third up 66-61.
Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade committed a “flagrant 1″ foul in the third quarter
The Heat simply took over in the fourth. Wade scored 6 points in the first 4 minutes alone. But with good help on the defensive side, Miami was able to keep the Bulls at bay. The final score was Heat 83, Bulls 72.
LeBron James scored 27 points and had 11 rebounds while Dwyane Wade tallied 18 points and 5 assists. Mario Chalmers has been struggling a bit since the All-Star break, but finally got back into his groove, scoring 16 points and making 2 steals.
“A physical Eastern Conference game,” Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said at the end of the third quarter. “It’s an emotional game, a passionate game.”
Miami (45-17) next faces the Washington Wizards on Saturday, April 21.
Wednesday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors was also close coming out of the first half, perhaps due to both Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade being kept in street clothes with an eye toward preserving their playoff health.
But there was plenty of action in the first, as Toronto’s Alan Anderson dominated, scoring 10 points and dishing out 2 assists. LeBron James scored 7 points, Udonis Haslem scored 6 points and Mario Chalmers managed 4 points. At the end of the one, the Heat were up 25-24.
Toronto kept going at Miami in the second. James Johnson scored 14 points in the quarter to keep the Raptors in the lead for a good portion of the quarter. But LeBron James’ 9 points helped the Heat take a 51-49 lead into the locker room.
Mike Miller filled in for Dwyane Wade on Wednesday night as the Miami Heat battled Toronto
LeBron & Co. took over in the second half, with James himself scoring 12 points and handing out two assists. Juwan Howard also played well off the bench, scoring 5 points in 9 minutes. The Heat outscored the Raptors 23-11 in the quarter.
At the end of three, the Miami Heat were up 74-60.
Mike Miller and the role players put the final nail in Toronto’s coffin in the fourth. Miller scored 10 points as the Heat outscored Toronto 22-12. The final score was Heat 96, Raptors 72.
“It was good to see our guys finish the game out,” said James, who finished with 28 points and 5 rebounds.
“When we have two guys out like tonight, he understands when he has to be aggressive,” Miami Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra said of James. “Even as he was scoring at such an efficient rate, we still felt the ball was moving.”
Mike Miller (filling in for Wade) scored 13 points and Udonis Haslem (filling in for Bosh) scored 10 points.
With this victory, the Heat have clinched the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. With only 4 games remaining in the season, the Heat also have the opportunity to clinch the No. 1 seed in the East.
By: Michael Tristani II/Sunshine Slate
Images: Copyright NBAE 2012 (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)