The 2011 NBA playoff schedule has mostly been a breeze for the Heat so far. However, the first bit of postseason adversity for Miami came Sunday, when Chicago cruised in the second half of Game 1. As such, all the progress the Heat made in defeating the Celtics was wiped out in one fell swoop. Despite that symbolic win, Miami’s playoff quest is still only halfway over — but the Eastern Conference finals aren’t halfway over for the Heat yet.
When the Bulls-Heat match started, most thought the series could go the distance, and then the Bulls were thought to be far ahead after the Game 1 blowout. But perceptions will shift once again, after the Heat pulled off an 85-75 win to even things up going back home, according to the Associated Press.
Like in the first half of Game 1, Game 2 started out fairly even. Although the Bulls jumped to an early lead, complete with a 40-foot shot from Luol Deng to end the first quarter, the Heat rallied to take the halftime lead. Unlike in the second half of Game 1, Miami kept up momentum in the third quarter, and opened up a lead of its own.
However, Chicago rallied from an 11-point deficit to tie the score at 73 with less than five minutes left. If the Bulls could complete the comeback, then the Heat would have likely been counted out of the entire series. Yet Miami did what it did to end its series with Boston — dominate the final few minutes.
As he did in the last two wins over the Celtics, LeBron James took command to close out a win. He scored nine of the last 12 Miami points, part of a 12-2 run that closed out Chicago. After being shut down by Deng Sunday, James rebounded for 29 points — another big statement.
So far in these playoffs, James has answered critics who have questioned his last-minute capabilities. One of the big subplots in the NBA this year concerned James and the Heat struggling in the fourth quarter, yet things are finally turning out differently in the postseason.
Since it turned out different this time, Miami got exactly what it wanted from its visit to Chicago. In spite of the Game 1 blowout, the Heat still drew dead even with the Bulls, and have home court advantage to try to take control. Now Chicago that has a few questions to answer, and has to bounce back with a big win on the road.
However, the Bulls’ postseason has yielded more adversity than that of the Heat. Chicago got a decisive Game 3 road win in Atlanta in the last round, and will now look to do it again in Miami. The next playoff test for the Bulls and Heat comes Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET on TNT.
NBA.com- “2011 Playoff Schedule”
Yahoo Sports- “James owns crunch time as Heat top Bulls in Game 2”