The Chicago Bulls won't go down without a fight, but the Miami Heat struck a critical blow in Game 3 to make sure the final nail gets struck sooner rather than later on Friday.
Despite a disappearing act Dwayne Wade and an off shooting night for LeBron James, the Heat pulled away down the stretch for a 104-94 victory at the United Center. The win gives Miami a 2-1 lead in the series and gives back home-court advantage to the defending champs.
James led the way for the Heat with a game-high 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists but struggled with his shot the entire night. The NBA's reigning MVP was only 6-of-17 from the field, as the Bulls defense continued to pummel James on drives to the basket.
Wade, who seemingly wanted no part of Chicago's interior defense, shot just five times and had 10 points. It's clear something is amiss with Wade and the Heat better hope it gets fixed with some rest prior to Game 4.
Instead of Wade, it was Chris Bosh who came to the rescue. The oft-maligned third wheel in the Big Three had a monstrous game, scoring 20 points and grabbing 18 rebounds. Norris Cole had 18 points off the bench, including a critical dagger that helped Miami seal the deal.
As for Chicago, the Bulls wish they could find some bench help. They had only six bench points the entire evening, as Tom Thibodeau again relied heavily on his starters. Jimmy Butler again played all 48 minutes, and Carlos Boozer was the starter below 42.
Nevertheless, this has been a series predicated on physicality and Friday night was no different. Chippiness was boundless, Joakim Noah got hit up with another technical, and Nazr Mohammad was ejected after shoving LeBron to the floor in the second quarter.
The two teams are back in action at the United Center for Game 4 Monday night. Let's hope the 72-hour layoff can let cooler heads prevail and the remainder of this series can go on without a hitch.