Twice, this shorthanded Chicago Bulls team has been able to get chippy and nag at a hyper-talented Miami Heat squad. Once, they've gotten blown out. Nothing's official Monday night, but the pace of play is trending towards the lattter, with Miami leading 44-33 at the break.
Things started quite grossly for Chicago. With an unusually early 6 p.m. start time, the crowd wasn't quite there yet. The Bulls missed 11 of their first 12 shots, and their first eight threes -- four by Marco Belinelli, four by Nate Robinson. They trailed 11-2 early. But somehow, things were relatively tight: the Bulls grabbed seven of their 16 misses in the first period -- as many shots as the Heat missed, total -- and managed to only trail 21-15 after the period.
The Heat once again looked to blow things out of the way with a 9-2 run -- and the two points were a Nazr Mohammed fader -- but then a Rip Hamilton three and Taj Gibson and-one made the lead only seven. But a LeBron James slam toned down the crowd as soon as they got into it, and soon the lead was double-digits again.
Kevin Zimmerman asked three questions about the game - here's some early answers.
Can Carlos Boozer continue acting as an offensive threat?
The Bulls tried to let him, but it didn't really follow through. Boozer wasn't overwhelmingly aggressive, and missed two of his first nine shots, more commonly your typical Carlos Boozer high-arcer over a defender than bullheaded drives to the hoop.
Will Chicago stay within an arm's length of Miami?
Not so close, but maybe if you're Manute Bol? (R.I.P.) The Heat are clearly the better team here, and have seemed poinsed to run away with this one on multiple occasions. But offensive rebounds -- 11 -- and Miami turnovers -- 9, mainly of the sloppy, absent-minded variety -- have the Bulls in the same arena after a 37-point loss in Game 2.
Does Miami get enough guys going?
Not really, but it wouldn't really matter. Chris Bosh had ten points in the first quarter, hitting six of his first seven shots, finishing the half with 12 points. And LeBron James -- have you heard of the guy? -- was 6-for-9 with 15 points, including an absolutely thunderous transition slam after forcing a turnover on a halfcourt trap and an and-1 when Nate Robinson tried and failed to stop his momentum. The rest of the Heat only had 17 points, but when two guys are practically even with the other team, that's not so big a deal.