The Bulls, like the Thunder vs the Mavs, were not able to match up with the Heat during ‘crunch time.’ The Bulls had EVERY chance to win Game 4, but eventually lost in OT. Then last night back home for Game 5, saw the Heat close with an 18-3 run in the final 3:03, closing out the series with an 83-80 victory. Miami made all six attempts from the floor (including three, three-pointers) in that stretch while the Bulls made 1-of-4 FG attempts with two turnovers during that span. Chicago was the NBA's best fourth quarter-team during the regular season with a plus-187 point differential in the final period and overtime but got outscored 106-73 by Miami in the fourth quarter (including an OT period in Game 4) of this series’ last four games.
The Bulls opened this series with a 103-82 victory but then never won another game. Coming back from a 20-point loss in Game 1 of a series to win, does not happen often. In fact, the Heat are the first team to do it since the Houston Rockets dropped Game 1 at Phoenix 130-108 in the 1995 Western Conference semifinals but rebounded to win that series in seven games. Twenty-three teams had lost Game 1 by at least 20 points since then without coming back to take a series. What makes Miami’s series win even more impressive is that the Bulls had entered the Eastern Conference finals without a three-game losing streak all season, yet Miami would beat them four straight times. Also note the Bulls had been 53-0 (regular season and postseason combined) in games in which they had a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter this season, before last night’s collapse.
Miami’s “Big 3” did it again, accounting for 83.1 percent of the Heat’s points (69 of 83). LBJ led the way with 28 points (11 rebounds and six assists), Wade had 21 points and six rebounds (but NINE turnovers!) and Bosh 20 & 10. The other two starters (Anthony and Bibby) combined for three points while Miller (seven) and Chalmers (four) were the only players to score off the bench. Haslem went scoreless for the second straight game (played just under 26 minutes), after scoring 21 points in Games 2 and 3. However, he did grab 14 rebounds in Games 4 and 5. As for the Bulls, Rose had 25-5-8 but again made just 9-of-29 shots (2-of-8 on threes). The Bulls made 7-of-22 three-pointers last night, finishing 21-of-78 (26.9 percent) on threes in their four losses (made 10-of-21 in Game 1).
The Miami win and cover means home teams finished 5-5 SU and 4-6 ATS in the conference finals. Home teams are 51-24 (.680) this postseason, going 35-37-3 ATS. The game went under, giving us 37 overs and 38 unders through 75 postseason games in 2011. “Zig-Zaggers” lost on Chicago, falling to 28-30-3 ATS (minus-5.0 net games) and all but ensuring a SEVENTH straight losing postseason ATS (last winning year was 2005, when it went 37-31-1 ATS). I’ll be back with my NBA Finals preview on Monday.