The Chicago Bulls' wild run through the NBA playoffs appears to be running out of gas. The Miami Heat have run them ragged, and they dealt a serious blow with a 88-65 Game 4 win at the United Center.
The Heat's third straight double-digit victory push them ahead in the series 3-1.
Chicago has been playing through numerous injuries, forcing Tom Thibodeau to go with a short lineup. The system he has in place has worked, though. At least, up until this point.
The Bulls struggled, hence the blowout final score, but there was really no stopping the Miami Heat Monday night.
Miami's incredibly disruptive defense held the Bulls to 25.7 percent shooting on the night, 2-of-17 from beyond the arc, and forced 17 turnovers from the home team.
LeBron James posted an incredible 27 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and was the leader of a defense that wouldn't quit. James finished with two of Miami's nine steals and a plus-27 mark in 43 minutes.
Chris Bosh was up alongside James, chipping in 14 points and hitting six of his first seven shots. He also picked up four blocked shots, protecting the rim from the inside out.
For Chicago, there were literally no bright spots. Nate Robinson's 0-of-12 stands out as the biggest black eye of a miserable performance, and the Bulls' 65 points were a franchise-low for a playoff game in the past 25 years.
James and Bosh combined for 27 points in the first half, but Miami surrendered 11 offensive rebounds to Chicago, allowing them to hang around through the first 24 minutes. The Heat took a 44-33 lead into halftime, holding the Bulls to 26.8 percent shooting.
The Bulls seem to have arms sticking out everywhere, and the sheer number of deflections they forced on the defensive end allowed them to remain in the game through the third quarter.
Dwyane Wade, who has struggled to score throughout the postseason, was particularly bad in Game 4. His first basket came in the third quarter and literally had to be spoon-fed to him by James. He finished with just six points on 3-of-10 shooting.
Robinson, without whom the Bulls would have been eliminated long ago, just ran out of gas in Game 4. He couldn't find the range and constantly wound up hunched over when he didn't have the ball.
Thibodeau preaches to his team the necessity for closing out quarters. They were unable to do so in any of the four in Game 4. They didn't score in the final four minutes of the third quarter, including going 0-of-6 from the free-throw line, and committed three turnovers.
Chicago scored just nine points in the quarter, and Norris Cole's three-pointer at the buzzer put the Heat up 61-42.
Jimmy Butler grabbed a quick six points to start the fourth quarter, but was never able to get the Bulls within 15. Chicago's respective iron man chalked up another 46 minutes in Game 4, but finished with just 12 points and five rebounds. Chris Andersen went for four straight immediately after, and the lead was at 20.
James' intensity knows no bounds. With his team nearing a 20-point lead, he was unable to finish a layup after being fouled and unleashed a spastic display of self-disappointment.
The Chicago faithful have a lot to be pleased with through this postseason run, yet little to cheer for after their latest display.
James was relentless throughout, scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter, picking up an assist and rebound as well.
Erik Spoelstra took no chances in allowing a miraculous comeback, leaving his stars on the floor till inside of three minutes. Wade, Bosh and James all took a seat for good with an 81-60 lead.
From there the reserves took the Heat home, both figuratively and literally.
Game 5, when the Heat will try and put the Bulls away for good, will be Wednesday night back in South Beach.