The first half of Game 1 was sloggy and not star-heavy: exactly what the Bulls were hoping for. The first quarter was the opposite of what we all expected here; Miami was ice-cold from the field, and a defense designed to get the ball out of LeBron James' hands was surprisingly effective. The Bulls weren't much better, but an 11-3 run toward the end of the period resulted in a 21-15 Chicago lead after one. The 15 points was the lowest by Miami in any first quarter since James came to the team in 2010, and they only got that many because of a runner at the buzzer by Norris Cole.
Miami responded pretty immediately with an 8-2 run to tie the game at 23, fueled by some strong shooting and a full-court press that forced Bulls third-stringers Daequan Cook and Marquis Teague into some turnovers. When James re-entered after a breather, the Heat ran off seven straight points, five by Mike Miller. But the Bulls responded well, with Joakim Noah getting up shots in the paint to give the Bulls a 7-2 run to end the half, tying the game at 37.
Jason Patt asked three questions about this game in his preview, and here's some early answers.
Can the Bulls limit LeBron James?
No, of course not. No. Not a chance. Not even close.
Wait, you're kidding me.
The Bulls played signature Tom Thibodeau defense: Jimmy Butler, actually a pretty decent perimeter defender at 6'7, was assigned to James, and behind him, the Bulls packed the paint. With four guys set up in zone-ish type looks, one eye on James and one on their man, there wasn't much room behind Butler. LeBron finished the first half just 1 for 6 from the field and was blocked by Butler on one of his attempts in the paint.
Can the Bulls dominate the glass?
There were a loooooooooot of missed shots here, so both teams had an opportunity to do work on the glass. And the Bulls did come out ahead, 22-16.
But that's sort of misleading. The Bulls tended to drop back instead of going for offensive boards, opting to set up on defense instead of compete for offensive boards, stymieing the Heat's tremendous ability to get out on the break. The exception was Noah, who was his typical hustling self on the glass, grabbing four offensive boards. And the Bulls turned the ball over 10 times, so the Heat didn't have as many opportunities to grab rebounds.
Will the Heat make hay at the free throw line?
The line wasn't much of a factor, with the Heat holding a slim 11-10 advantage. LeBron didn't get to the line at all.