Chicago’s defense stifled LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to set-up an easy 103-82 victory over the Miami Heat in the opening game of their Eastern Conference Finals series on Sunday.
Chicago’s Derrick Rose, the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP), scored 28 points, but it was the Bulls’ defense that really stood up, limiting Wade to 18 points and James to 15.
The third member of Miami’s ‘Big Three,’ Chris Bosh, managed a playoff-high 30 points, but the Heat will have to find a way to improve their offense before Game 2 of their best-of-seven series in Chicago tomorrow.
For the Bulls, their triumph was a continuation of their regular season domination over Miami when they won all three matchups.
However, despite their track record and status as the top seed in the Eastern Conference, Chicago found itself viewed as the underdog against Miami heading into the series.
“There are a lot of opinions out there, but we’re not getting caught in that,” Bulls forward Luol Deng told reporters after finishing with 21 points and playing suffocating defense against James. “We’ve won 62 games. We know we’re a good team. In order to win you have to think you’re the best.”
Chicago were clearly at their best during a dominant second half where they outscored the Miami Heat 55-34.
They seized momentum in the third period, where they used a 10-0 spurt to turn a one-point deficit into a 67-58 advantage, then let loose in the fourth with three-pointers and vicious dunks as their home fans celebrated the rout.
After overcoming the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics in the second round series, Miami found a much different challenge in Chicago.
The Heat were pounded inside, where the Bulls tallied 31 second-chance points to just eight for Miami.
“That will wear any team down,” said James, who made just five of 15 shots. “You play defense hard, then they get an offensive rebound and kick it out for a layup or a dunk, those are demoralizing for a defense. We have to figure out a way to clean that up.”
THUNDER VS GRIZZLIES
REUTERS, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Memphis Grizzlies 105-90 on Sunday to seal their place in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Western Conference finals.
The Thunder rebounded from their 13-point loss in Memphis two days ago to easily win the deciding seventh game at home, with forward Kevin Durant leading the way with 39 points and nine rebounds.
Oklahoma’s 4-3 series win saw them advance to the best-of-seven Western Conference finals against the Dallas Mavericks, starting in Texas today.
Like his team, Durant recovered quickly from Friday’s -below-par display. In that game, the 22-year-old Durant managed only 11 points on 3-for-14 shooting, but he was back to his best against the Grizzlies.
“[I was going to] be aggressive no matter if I was shooting 10 for 30,” Durant told reporters after Sunday’s win. “My teammates kept pushing, kept getting me the ball and I was able to get some good shots.”
Memphis got 18 points from Mike Conley, along with 17 and 10 rebounds from Zach Randolph, but the visitors were unable to catch the Thunder, who came out fast and built an 11-point lead in the second quarter, then led by eight at the half.
The Grizzlies clawed to within 52-49 late in the third, but Oklahoma City exploded for a 14-2 run that established a 66-51 lead with 1:23 left in the quarter.