Despite the fact that Miami has locked up the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs and secured home-court advantage through the NBA Finals, the team took this game seriously.
Chicago was astonishingly effective without stalwart center Joakim Noah, 2-guard Rip Hamilton and big man Taj Gibson, as it received a major contribution from Carlos Boozer, a player who always shows up against Miami.
Boozer finished with 16 points and 20 rebounds in 39 minutes of play.
However, as expected, LeBron was the hero of the game for Miami. He finished the day having outdueled his counterpart, Luol Deng, by putting up 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists in 35 efficient minutes.
The Chicago swingman did his best to contain James and generate his own offensive output, but only finished with 19 points, three assists and two rebounds.
In the first half, King James provided fans with yet another incredible display of MVP talent, scoring 16 points and shooting 6-of-6 from field-goal range. He connected on his only attempt from beyond the arc and nailed all three free-throw tries.
LBJ also brought down the house with a thunderous slam off a pick-and-roll feed from Mario Chalmers. If it weren’t for the three turnovers, it may have been considered a perfect half of play.
The X-factor for Miami was Chris Andersen and his incredible energy and hustle. The big man was instrumental off the bench and finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and one pretty reverse layup that should make the highlight reels.
Surprisingly, Chicago was right in the thick of things when the teams went to the locker room, as the score after 24 minutes was Heat 56, Bulls 54.
Both squads came out firing and connecting from deep in the third quarter, but soon saw their percentages regress toward the mean. After the midway point of the period, the contest degenerated into something resembling a brawl with hard fouls and ugly play.
For the game, there were 57 total foul calls, 30 going against the Bulls and 27 on the Heat—whose 41-31 free-throw advantage certainly made winning much easier.
Miami pulled away early in the fourth quarter, using defensive pressure to limit the opposition to zero two-point field goals well into the second half.
It wasn’t until Carlos Boozer hit one with just under eight minutes to go in the period that Chicago was on the board with anything other than a trey or foul shot.
Chicago lost focus in the final period, shooting many long, inefficient twos and quickly falling out of contention. The unit's trademark defense suffered too many mental lapses and broke down too often to have a real chance of making a late comeback.
This was the 36th home win for the Heat, setting a franchise record that the team has a chance to improve upon come Wednesday, April 17, when they host the Orlando Magic.
Following that contest, the Heat head into the playoffs as clear favorites to repeat as champions. After observing them thoroughly handling the Bulls on Sunday in a postseason atmosphere—complete with the fouls and gritty play—it's hard to envision anyone beating Miami in a best-of-seven series.
ESPN NBA stat guru Tom Haberstroh certainly took notice of LeBron James’ incredible first-half line:
LeBron's shooting line: 6-6 FG, 1-1 3FG, 3-3 FT. He has 16 points at the break and the Heat are up 56-54.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) April 14, 2013
As is usually the case when Miami and Chicago square up on the hardwood, it was not for the weak of heart. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst commented on the chippy play:
This has turned into another classic Heat-Bulls game with techs and borderline fouls flying everywhere.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) April 14, 2013
Grantland's Bill Simmons points out that the Heat have a chance to attain yet another historical milestone this season:
Heat have a chance for 66 wins. Only been done 12 times, and just 4x since MJ/Bulls: 00 Lakers, 07 Mavs, 08 Bos, 09 Cavs.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) April 14, 2013
Windhorst noted the impact this loss had on Chicago's playoff seeding:
Heat 105, Bulls 93. Chicago now firmly in 6th seed. LeBron had 24, Wade had 22 and looked better in 2nd game off injury.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) April 14, 2013