Bulls shock defending-champion Heat in Game 1 with 93-86 win
BY JOE COWLEY firstname.lastname@example.org May 6, 2013 8:58PM
Do you think the Bulls can beat the Heat in the series?
Updated: May 6, 2013 10:30PM
MIAMI — The King’s coronation took place just before tipoff, when Heat forward LeBron James was handed his fourth MVP award.
It was nice of the Bulls to play the role of unwanted guests to perfection.
With forward Luol Deng still in Chicago recovering from a spinal tap, and guard Kirk Hinrich still out with a bruised left calf, the Bulls put a damper on the Game 1 festivities in the Eastern Conference semifinals, beating Miami 93-86. It was the Heat’s fifth loss of the season at American Airlines Arena.
The Bulls again can thank guard Nate Robinson, who had two huge baskets in the last 1:17 and put Miami on ice at the free-throw line. Robinson had 27 points and nine assists.
And despite needing 10 stitches in his upper lip, the vociferous Robinson let the Heat players know they’re in for a series at the end of the game.
“He’s about as confident as they come, and that’s the thing that makes him good,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “If he misses a shot, he has a very short memory. He has the courage to take and make. He got knocked around a little bit, took a couple of stitches. It’s all good.’’
And all bad for the Heat, which had seven days off after sweeping the Bucks in the first round and played like it.
“No one has us winning any games,’’ Robinson said. “I heard some guys had us getting swept.’’
That’s not happening now, as the Bulls won a dramatic Game 7 in Brooklyn on Saturday, then stunned the Heat two days later.
“We’re not making any excuses,’’ Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the loss.
Asked if the top-seeded Heat needed a loss as a wake-up call, Spoelstra wasn’t buying it.
“You don’t need anything; this is the playoffs,’’ Spoelstra said. “You either win or you lose. There are no excuses for it on our home floor.
‘‘There are enough examples where we didn’t close out the game like we’re capable of with four-point and six-point leads [in the fourth].
“They imposed their identity in the first game.’’
Specifically in the fourth quarter in which the Bulls were down by seven with 6:30 left.
The Bulls scored 35 points in the fourth, and Robinson had 11 in the quarter.
“I played on some tough teams, but this one is different,’’ Robinson said. “There’s something special with this group. We just love to play for each other.’’
After swingman Jimmy Butler did a good job of silencing James most of the night, it appeared James was poised to take over in the fourth, scoring the Heat’s first three baskets. But Butler, who has played all 48 minutes in three consecutive games, was able to silence James down the stretch.
Butler also contributed 21 points and 14 rebounds.
“Just tried making everything tough for [James],’’ Butler said. “Be aggressive at both ends of the floor and make him make plays when he’s on offense.’’
There will be little rest for either team with Game 2 on Wednesday. All of a sudden, it’s a series.
“Nobody has given us a chance,’’ forward Taj Gibson said. “Nobody still gives us a chance. We don’t really care what the outside world thinks. We all worry about what the locker room thinks. We believe in ourselves.’’