Heat move to within one game of Bulls
Miami, FL – LeBron James made sure Chicago's depth didn't play a factor in this late-season duel of the Eastern Conference's best.
James scored 27 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out six assists, while Dwyane Wade added 18 points and five assists as Miami downed Chicago, 83-72.
Mario Chalmers helped out with 16 points, as Miami did just enough offensively and took advantage of Derrick Rose's absence to move within one game in the loss column of the Bulls for the East's top record. The Heat came out on top without Chris Bosh, who sat out as a precautionary measure and to rest for the playoff stretch.
John Lucas led the Bulls with 16 points, while Joakim Noah posted a double- double of 15 points and 10 rebounds. Luol Deng chipped in with 11 points for the Bulls, who are just 7-6 in their last 13 games.
James scored 15 points on just six shots, and the Heat made 52 percent of their attempts in the opening stanza. Initially it was Chalmers who rose to the occasion, scoring nine of the Heat's first 16 points, with his trey giving the home team a 16-14 edge.
Miami built a five-point lead before the Bulls fought back with a 9-2 spurt to take a 23-21 advantage on Noah's left-handed hook in the paint. The Heat countered with the next six points, including James' fifth basket of the stanza with just under 35 ticks to go.
The teams continued to jockey for position in the second, trading blows with Chicago's bench throwing jabs and Miami's stars returning the favor. After Carlos Boozer's two free throws gave the Bulls a 40-37 lead, Miami scored the final five points of the half capped by James' free throw for a two-point margin, 42-40.
The Heat then tallied the first six points of the third with Chalmers' running bank shot making the score, 48-40. The margin extended to 57-48 on Udonis Haslem's baseline jumper at the 5:30 mark, and Mike Miller's trey gave Miami the game's first double-digit advantage, 64-53.
Chicago closed within three at 66-63 early in the fourth quarter on Lucas' jumper from the right baseline, but it couldn't muster enough offense to get over the hump. Shane Battier's three gave the Heat some breathing room at 75-65, and they rolled to the win from there.
The two teams have split four meetings this season...Chicago dropped to 28-9 on the road, while Miami improved to 27-4 at home...The Bulls lost their 10th game against the Eastern Conference...Chicago's 72 points were a season low...Deng and Boozer combined to make just 9-of-26 shots. Boozer finished with 10 points and five rebounds...C.J. Watson, the hero of Chicago's 96-86 overtime victory over the Heat on April 12, finished with just two points.