CHICAGO – LeBron James came on strong down the stretch to finish with 25 points, Chris Bosh added 20 points and 19 rebounds, and the Miami Heat followed up the most lopsided playoff win in franchise history with a 104-94 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Norris Cole scored 18, and the Heat pulled out a tight win after blasting the Bulls 115-78 on Wednesday.
This time, Chicago refused to go quietly. Never mind that the Bulls were coming off the worst playoff loss in franchise history. Put aside the fact that the ailing Luol Deng and injured Kirk Hinrich (calf) remained sidelined, not to mention Derrick Rose, or that Nazr Mohammed got ejected in the second quarter for shoving James to the floor.
The Heat simply had too much in the end.
James hit just 6 of 17 shots and even got blocked on a layup by Nate Robinson in the third quarter. But the four-time MVP came through down the stretch, scoring 12 in the fourth.
He and Cole hit two big 3-pointers. Bosh perked up after two quiet games, and Miami's bench outscored Chicago's 36-8.
Carlos Boozer led Chicago with 21 points. Robinson and Jimmy Butler each scored 17. Joakim Noah added 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Marco Belinelli had 16 points, but the Bulls couldn't pull this one out.
They were within 85-83 when Cole scored on a finger roll with about four minutes left and Miami started to take control from there. James answered a 3-pointer by Belinelli with one of his own, and after Boozer hit a jumper for Chicago, Cole buried another 3 for the Heat to make it 96-88 with 1:48 remaining.