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Miami and Chicago turn back the clock, and time is running out on Bulls

It's a 1980s-style superstar shootout as LeBron James and the Heat outlast Derrick Rose and the Bulls in overtime, 101-93, giving Miami a 3-1 lead in Eastern Conference finals.

May 24, 2011|Mark Heisler
  • Miami forward LeBron James, left, drives past Chicago guard Derrick Rose during the first quarter of the Heat's 101-93 overtime victory Tuesday in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Miami forward LeBron James, left, drives past Chicago guard Derrick Rose… (Scott Strazzante / Chicago…)

Where did that come from?

The work-in-progress Miami Heat and the young Chicago Bulls, who were looking more like Incomplete and Incompleter, reached back into time for the kind of shootout that superstars like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and a newcomer named Michael Jordan had in the '80s.

In numbers, it was only 35 points for LeBron James and 23 for Derrick Rose, coming back from a two-for-11 start.

In great, clutch plays as the lead changed hands four times in the last 2:10 of regulation, it was breathtaking.

If it was a rite of passage for Miami, the Heat passed it, winning, 101-93, in overtime to go up, 3-1, in the Eastern Conference finals.

If it was a rite of manhood for the Bulls, they passed it too, taking everything the Heat hit them with over and over as the series teetered in the balance.

Making the stars' exploits that much more remarkable, they came in the midst of another grinding defensive struggle — "an absolute bloodbath," Miami Coach Erik Spoelstra called it, happily, the NBA kind, without actual blood.

"What I see is two remarkably explosive athletes," Spoelstra said. "Two MVPs. Both of them have two incredible wills to win and they have a speed and a gear you don't see very often."

Or in NBA language. . . .

"D-Rose, on the break, he goes to a jump stop and finishes it with an and-one," James said of the first two spectacular dunks by Rose in second quarter.

"And then he breaks down our defense, splits the pick-and-roll and he gets in there against probably our best shot-blocker in Joel Anthony and dunks the ball for an and-one.

"He's a special player. Those plays are spectacular. That's who he is."

With all the woe that befell the Bulls in six days, going from 1-0 to 1-2 in the series amid steroids-in-the-NBA and homophobic-remark controversies, it was surprising they showed up.

When Joakim Noah wasn't apologizing for his remarks, he was asked how he led let Chris Bosh get away for 34 points in Game 3.

"They've got LeBron James and Dwyane Wade," pointed out Noah, who's supposed to help on them too.

"Those guys are pretty good."

After a marathon X-and-O clinic conducted by the media as to what it would take to free up Rose — more isolations? Fewer pick-and-rolls? Another uniform number? — one thing was clear, he was coming out firing.

What would happen after that was the question.

When it turned out Rose still couldn't get into the lane, he got aggressive from the outside and missed all his shots.

Then, after a 29-9 run put the Heat up by nine in the second period, with the end seemingly in sight, Rose got loose on a fastbreak and threw down his first monster dunk, two-handed.

Then he split Miami's double-team on a pick-and-roll, got to the hoop and threw down an even bigger monster dunk that would have hurt Anthony if he had gotten any closer.

After that, it was on.

At the end of regulation, the Bulls, who had come from behind three times in 1:26, got the last possession and gave it to Rose, guarded — of course — by James.

Rose settled for a fall-away 17-footer that didn't come close, and afterward took the entire blame for the loss on himself.

"Tonight, it definitely was on me," said Rose, who missed 19 of 27 shots. "I had two chances to end the game. Couldn't do it. Definitely was my fault. Learn from it."

Better be a fast learning curve.

"He hasn't been able to get to the line like I thought he would and we don't want to discourage him from attacking," Chicago Coach Tom Thibodeau said of Rose, in the closest the Bulls have come to making an excuse.

"There's a lot of contact and he hasn't gotten the calls."


That sound you heard was the NBA, about to levy its latest fine for complaining about the referees.

Of course, this was such a soft-spoken effort, even a league that may start punishing thought-crime any day might let it go.

Thibodeau, as usual, is taking it by the numbers.

"We're going step by step," he said. "Have a great practice tomorrow. Have a great shoot-around and be ready for the first quarter [of Game 5]."

Hey, a journey of 1,000 miles starts with the first step.

Of course, no one said this is the spring the Bulls are going to get there.

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