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Thursday, February 2

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Bulls Mon May 23 2011

Big 3 Carries Heat to Series Lead

After a long three days between games, the Miami Heat picked up where they left off last Wednesday in Chicago, beating the visiting Bulls 96-85 on Sunday to take a 2-1 series lead.

bulls heat series logo.PNGThe Heat were in charge most of the night, but Chicago hung around, trailing 68-66 with 11 minutes left, before Miami's Big Three took over and engineered a closing surge similar to Game 2.

Now with their first back-to-back losses since February, the Bulls are looking for the defensive strength that helped them romp in Game 1. Miami shot 50 percent from the field, their best mark of the series. The Bulls limited the scoring of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but instead saw James and others dish the ball off to Chris Bosh all night, giving the Heat power forward ample opportunities for easy buckets.

Bosh had a game-high 34 points on 13-of-18 shooting -- possibly the best big-game performance of his mercurial career -- while James added 22 points on 6-of-13 shooting with six rebounds, 10 assists, two steals and two blocks, and Wade had 17 points (6-of-17), nine rebounds and three assists.

Carlos Boozer played a great game for Chicago, despite missing his first five shots, mostly around the rim. But after he stepped back a few feet, he seemed to heat up with jumpers from 15 to 18 feet, and ended up with 26 points and 17 rebounds.

Boozer's partner in crime, Joakim Noah, was far less effective after getting in foul trouble early. He never found a rhythm and had only one point and five rebounds, though he had a few bright spots with six assists.

Derrick Rose ended up with another deceptive 20 points, as he only shot 8-for-19 and gave out five assists. It looked frustrating for the league MVP out there, as he seemed to try all manner of routes to get to the hoop through Miami's defense but was often unable to get a clear look. Like a fly unable to find its way through a screen, Rose was routinely bounced back from the lane, forced to throw up an acrobatic heave.

But the biggest reason the Heat won this game was Bosh by far. With Noah unable to play physically under the rim, the third wheel of Miami's big offseason signing spree played with an aggressiveness he's been largely missing this season. Often seen as deferential to Wade and James, Bosh hasn't used his physical tools to Miami's advantage as often as expected. But with a good performance a week ago in Game 1 and this effort, Bosh is playing a big role in this series, allowing the Heat to score on possessions even when James or Wade are forced to pass it off due to stifling one-on-one defense.

All in all, the fact is that while Bosh cracked 30 and James and Wade were kept to less than 25 each, they still combined for 73 points -- just 12 points shy of Chicago's entire total. Miami looked like the defensive role models that the Bulls lived by the entire season.

The series resumes Tuesday in Miami at 7:30 CT, in what's as close to a must-win game for Chicago as they've had all year. Before then, the Bulls have got to figure out not just how to lock down Miami like they did in Game 1, but find the offense that was so potent in that 103-83 victory at the United Center. Monday's off day should be a busy one.

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