|Written by Michael|
Bet on the NBAYou don't have to like LeBron James, but it is almost impossible to deny that he is one of the best – if not the best – players in the NBA right now.
His clutch three-pointers and suffocating defense proved that last night as the Heat trailed almost the entire game until putting on an 18-3 run over the Bulls to take the 83-80 win. The Heat now go on to face the Mavericks in the NBA Finals, a rematch of the 2006 finals where the Mavs led 2-0, then got swept in the next four games.
Both the Mavericks and the Heat faced tough, young teams in their respective conference finals rounds, and both relied on their defense down the stretch and their ability to hit clutch shots and free throws. The younger Bulls and Thunder just did not have the poise to make plays, hit important shots late in games, and make hugely important free throws. In 2011, age and experience trumped youth to set up one of the great NBA Finals rematches of all time.
The Chicago Bulls played extremely well through three and a half quarters on Thursday night, but just did not have enough in the final minutes. The Miami Heat were down 12 before both James and Dwyane Wade scored 8 points each in the team's 18-3 run. MVP Derrick Rose missed his final free throw of the game which could have made it a two-point game, but that loss made is necessary to hit a three in the final seconds just to tie. And Rose could not get off a clear shot at the buzzer.
Again, the story of the game for these two teams was poor shooting from Chicago all around, with the Bulls hitting only 35.8% from the field and going 7-of-22 from behind the arc. Their offense struggled most of the game and they had to rely on their defense to force turnovers. Thankfully for the Bulls, Miami had 17 turnovers. But the Bulls also had 28 fouls to the Heat's 18, leading to 33 free throws for Miami compared to Chicago's 21 total.. The Bulls were outscored by 10 points just in free throws.
But just slightly better offense in each of their four losses to the Heat could easily have turned the tied for Chicago. The Heat relied on sticking around until the fourth quarter of these games before tightening the defense to shut down Rose, knowing that the Bulls had no other option to get easy points and make plays. While a couple of Bulls players had a decent game here and there, their poor shooting the entire playoffs was an indication of where the team is weakest, and the Heat exploited that.