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Heat stars turn visions of a Bulls breeze into a mirage

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Updated: June 22, 2011 7:04PM



Idon’t want to say Bulls fans were overly wound up Wednesday night, but when Miami’s Chris Bosh dunked, the guy behind me at the United Center screamed angrily, “Guard him!’’ The score was 2-0.

On the other hand, maybe he saw a future of dunks, layups and LeBron James dominance unfolding before him.

Let’s call what happened Wednesday a market correction. Miami tied the Eastern Conference finals 1-1 with an 85-75 victory. No matter what Game 1 might have said, the Bulls are not 21 points better than the Heat. James and Dwyane Wade are not the bystanders they appeared to be in Game 1. They’re two of the top 10 basketball players on the planet. Chicago and its suburbs might have lost sight of that after Game 1’s blowout victory.

No matter what you might have heard or seen this season, Derrick Rose is human. Humans shoot 7-for-23 from the floor. MVPs bounce back from bad performances. We’ll see how he and the Bulls respond Sunday in Game 3 in Miami.

The excitement around town after Game 1 was more than a little out of proportion. Maybe people will calm down a bit now, and by that I mean maybe people will start thinking that getting “Bench Mob’’ shoulder tattoos might not be such a good idea.

When the Bulls looked flat against the Pacers and the Hawks in the two previous playoff series, lots of people tsked-tsked those of us who called the team on it. We didn’t understand the NBA, we were told. The playoffs were long and difficult, we were told, a marathon, not a sprint. Bad games were bound to crop up.

But when the Bulls beat the Heat 103-82 in Game 1, all that NBA wisdom sprinted out the window, as did sobriety. And so we started to hear that there was no way the Heat could keep up with a Bulls team with so much depth.

Now we’re back to reality, and that’s not such a bad thing. Two very good teams are going at it with ferocity, as it should be in the conference finals. And now the Bulls know that this isn’t going to be easy.

Heat’s adjustment pays off

Three thoughts:

Any time the Bulls want to get up on Miami’s Udonis Haslem would be fine.

Carlos Boozer still can’t jump.

Taj Gibson still deserves most of Boozer’s minutes.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra chose to go small again Wednesday by making 7-3 Zydrunas Ilgauskas and 6-11 Erick Dampier inactive. That decision looked crazy until tipoff, when the Heat played hard immediately.

“I thought they had a lot of fight to them,’’ Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Miami was well aware that it didn’t look all there in Game 1, that the team nickname could have been Lukewarm instead of Heat. Players were determined to change that.

The Heat finally got smart in Game 2. Wade drove to the basket more often. James backed in on Luol Deng more often. Common sense says that Mario Chalmers and Mike Bibby have to shoot to keep the Bulls honest, but James seemed to decide he’d prefer to lose on his own failures, not Bibby’s and Chalmers’.

At halftime, Wade had 17 points and James had 14 points. Both were 6-for-9 from the floor. The Heat shot 51.5 percent.

What, you thought this was going to be a breeze? You were thinking sweep?

8 unanswered points swung game

The Bulls were 0-for-9 until Keith Bogans hit a three-pointer about four minutes into the game.

The Heat did to Rose in Game 2 what the Bulls did to James in Game 1: They walled up the driving lanes. It’s why Rose’s stats at one point in the third quarter (5-for-17 from the floor) were eerily similar to James’ Game 1 stats (5-for-15).

The Heat scored eight unanswered points on three layups and a dunk to take a 65-56 lead with four minutes left in the third. That led to a Thibodeau timeout and probably several players being put in timeout.

When play resumed, Haslem almost immediately threw down a dunk. He finished with 13 points in 23 minutes.

In the fourth quarter, the Heat had James, Wade and Bosh on the floor. In addition to Rose and Deng, the Bulls had Bench Mobbers Gibson, Kyle Korver and Omer Asik. Give Thibodeau credit for sticking to a meritocracy in the playoffs.

It’s why Asik was on the court when Wade drove to the hoop. And it’s why Asik was able to reject Wade’s dunk attempt.

But James took over at the end of the game, scoring almost at will.

“These playoff games, the last five minutes at home, you’ve got to find a way to win,’’ Deng said.

Look, the Bulls remain a hustling pain in the butt. That’s not much of a marketing campaign. It’s just the truth. And it will help them again and again in this series. But the Heat hustles a little bit too.

Oh, and it has a ton of talent. Somehow, a certain Midwestern city lost sight of that.



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