Chicago, IL – C.J. Watson played the part of Derrick Rose. Taj Gibson took over for Joakim Noah. And Omer Asik stood in for Carlos Boozer.
It may have been different players, but the Bulls bench looked like stars in overtime, dominating Miami in a 96-86 victory at the United Center.
With Rose showing rust and in the midst of a 1-of-13 shooting night, the Bulls turned to Watson, who drained the game-tying three at the end of regulation as part of a 16-point, eight-assist stat line. Then it was Gibson who was called on to guard the more athletic Chris Bosh, and he responded by frustrating the Miami forward and contributing 11 points and five rebounds of his own before fouling out. Asik was the interior defensive stalwart with eight rebounds and two blocks, while Kyle Korver scored 17 points, including five threes, in the Bulls' second straight win. Boozer played an integral role through the first three quarters, scoring 19 points to go along with 11 boards.
The comeback and overtime domination happened with Rose on the bench. The guard had missed 12 straight games before returning in Sunday's loss to New York. He sat out Tuesday's victory over the Knicks, and looked out of sync throughout.
LeBron James led all scorers with 30 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Dwyane Wade added 21 points and Bosh chipped in with 20 for the Miami, which has dropped two in a row. The Heat bench was outscored, 47-7, while Chicago's bench also grabbed 21 rebounds and dished out 13 assists.
The Bulls clinched the Central Division title with the victory and now hold a three-game edge in the loss column over the Heat in the race for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Overtime was a house of horrors and frustration for the Heat, who were swarmed by the Bulls' bench in the extra session. Just Luol Deng played solid overtime minutes out of Chicago's starters, instead the Bulls relied on Watson, Korver, Asik and Gibson, who converted a three-point play for an 89-84 lead, then converted a reverse lay-in for a 91-85 edge with 2:10 to go. Watson's rainbow jumper moments later made it an eight-point game, and the Heat couldn't overcome the deficit.
Miami tallied the game's first six points and 10 of the first 12 as Mario Chalmers' layup in transition and James' hook in the lane opened the eight- point edge. Chicago scored the period's final six points with Watson's three making the score 22-19.
Korver and the Bulls' bench changed momentum in the early stages of the second stanza. Ronnie Brewer's tip-in brought the Bulls within 22-21 and a pair of Kyle Korver threes pushed the home team in front, 28-24.
Trailing 36-29, the Heat got its starters back involved and ran off 12 points in a row to claim the lead. Consecutive threes by Mike Miller and James put the visitors in front and the latter's two free throws capped the first-half scoring.
That scoring didn't include Rose, who was blanked in a half for the first time in his NBA career after missing all five of his shots and failing to reach the charity stripe.
Back-and-forth the heayweights went with the Heat opening a 52-44 lead on James' driving layup. Rose finally scored his first points at the 7:01 mark of the third, but Miami captured a double-digit advantage, 60-50, on Joel Anthony's hook shot in the lane. Chicago surged back with 10 of the last 12 points capped by Deng's trey and Hamilton's step-back jumper at the top of the key.
Deng scored 16 on the game and Hamilton chipped in with seven points.
Chicago's bench brought the energy in the fourth quarter with Watson's bank shot giving the home team the 67-65 lead and Korver's three off a screen pushing it to two possessions. Miami countered with the next five, including a highlight-reel three-point play from James.
With the game tied, the Bulls didn't turn to Rose, who sat for the first half of the fourth quarter, but rather the sharp-shooting Korver, who connected on a three for a 78-74 advantage.
Miami turned to one of its stars, Wade, who scored on three of four Heat possessions, the last two shots high on the degree of difficulty list. His second bucket off a quick curl in the lane pulled the Heat within 81-80.
Moments later, he missed a good look on the right elbow, but Bosh corralled the rebound and kicked the ball to James, who drained a go-ahead trey with 49.3 seconds to go. Deng missed an open three off a timeout, but James left the door open with just 1-of-2 free throws with 11.4 ticks left.
The miss proved costly, as Boozer found Watson on the right wing for a game- tying three with 2.2 seconds to go. Wade got a fadeaway look on the other end, but it came up short.
The Bulls have won two of three meetings this season and five of the last six with Miami...Chicago held a big edge beyond the arc, draining as many threes (11) as Miami attempted...Wade tied a franchise record for games played (593).