Heat on fire as they corner hapless Bulls
Defending NBA champions just one win away from Eastern Conference finals with 'King James' urging them to finish the job at home
LeBron James had 27 points, eight assists and seven rebounds as the Miami Heat routed Chicago 88-65 to seize a commanding 3-1 series lead in their second-round Eastern Conference series.
Miami, who dominated the Bulls 115-78 in game two, started with an 11-2 run in their latest clash and never looked back.
"We just try to wear a team down throughout the series and get better each game," said James, who was the leading vote-getter in balloting for the NBA All Defensive Team. "We've done a great job of closing out quarters and going into the next quarter with momentum."
Chicago shot a dismal 25.7 per cent from the field and scored a post-season franchise low in points in front of a 21,990 crowd at the United Centre arena. The Bulls scored just nine points in the third quarter, another franchise low.
Miami can now close out the best-of-seven series in game five tomorrow morning (Hong Kong time) at home.
"We have to come out with the same intensity that we came out with [in game four], both offensively and defensively," James said.
Chris Bosh also scored in double figures, finishing with 14 points and four blocks for the Heat, who had 19 fast-break points compared to just seven for the Bulls. "We wanted to work as hard as we could on defence tonight," Bosh said. "We are looking forward to having a chance to close these guys out."
Carlos Boozer had 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulls, whose previous play-off franchise low in points (69) came against the Detroit Pistons in game one of a 2007 NBA quarter-final. Their previous low in field-goal percentage (31.1 per cent) also came against the Pistons, in game seven of the 1990 NBA semi-finals.
Boozer shot just 3-of-14, while Nate Robinson was 0-for 12 and did not score.
"We are disappointed with the way we played," said Joakim Noah. "But there is still basketball left and we are not giving up."
The Bulls were again without injured star Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich. Rose has not played all season, while Deng had a spinal tap two weeks ago to rule out meningitis and has been slow to recover.
With all of the injuries and the heavy minutes, Chicago appear to be losing steam.
"We have to bounce back," said Bulls' coach Tom Thibodeau, who was slapped with a US$35,000 fine after he criticised the officials after game three of the series.
James had 15 points and Bosh scored 12 as Miami led 44-33 at half-time. They held Chicago to just 27 per cent shooting in the first 24 minutes.
The Bulls' day just kept getting worse, especially in the third, when they made just two of their 13 shots in the quarter. Miami were rolling on offence, going on a 10-1 surge in the middle part of the third. Dwyane Wade had a pair of buckets during the swing, including one from the left side that gave Miami a 56-40 lead.