Quantcast 2011 NBA Eastern Conference Finals: Miami Heat vs Chicago Bulls

 

2011 NBA Eastern Conference Finals Game 2 - Miami 85, Chicago 75 – Series tied, 1-1

 

When did the Miami Heat defeat the Chicago Bulls in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals? Technically, the answer is that the Heat did the deed Wednesday night at the United Center in the Windy City, but in a very real way, this triumph was forged a week ago in two separate cities.

How did Miami manage to respond to an embarrassing Game 1 performance on Sunday, winning a game it had to grab in order to attain leverage in a best-of-seven slugfest? It wasn’t just that LeBron James lifted his team to victory in the home stretch against Chicago. It was the way in which King James went about his business.

You’ll recall that LeBron found himself in the middle of a competitive crucible when the Heat were challenged by the Boston Celtics in the second round of the postseason. Despite a severely-injured Rajon Rondo and a roster of less-than-fully-fit players, the cagey Celtics were on the verge of tying the Heat at two games apiece. Leading by three points late in Game 4 of the East semifinals, Boston was about to plant fresh doubts in the minds of the Heat, chiefly the man who took his talents to South Beach last summer. While Dwyane Wade had already won a championship and thereby validated his career, LeBron – along with new signee Chris Bosh – had not attained the highest pinnacle in his sport. When Boston snared an 84-81 advantage in the dying minutes of Game 4, LeBron felt the gaze of the entire professional basketball community and the glare of the national sports spotlight.

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It was then that the 2007 version of LeBron, the man who carried the Cleveland Cavaliers to that year’s NBA Finals, re-emerged. After a season of missing clutch shots late in fourth quarters, LeBron shook off his demons and managed to drain dagger-like jumpers against the Celtics. A three-pointer by James tied the Celtics, and another jumper put the Heat ahead in overtime. James altered the course of an epic struggle the Heat eventually claimed to take a 3-1 series lead. Two nights later, on May 11, James hit back-to-back threes in a similar situation to turn an 87-all tie into a 93-87 Miami lead near the end of Game 5. LeBron’s jump shooting once again flourished in a money situation against a formidable rival, and when the Heat officially advanced against the Celtics – a longstanding nemesis for James and Wade – it was realistic to think that Miami had turned a corner of sorts. Its most physically imposing player had crossed the river from uncertainty to complete command of his considerable talents.

It was that sense of mastery, of full-fledged control, which returned for James on a night when Miami had to counter the first forceful punch Chicago threw in Game 1. The Bulls’ energy and hunger overwhelmed the Heat and LeBron on Sunday. Game 2 wasn’t just an occasion in which Miami had to win; the Heat, who were reduced to literal tears by a Chicago victory in South Florida during the regular season, needed to prove they could man up in a meaningful, motivational moment.

Plainly, LeBron answered and met his team’s greatest challenge with all the poise and composure his teammates expect from him. In the middle of a defensive grinder, LeBron broke through and rose above his surroundings.

 

 

With just over 4:30 left in regulation, the score was tied at 73-apiece. Neither team had scored in over two and a half minutes, and Miami had scored just two points in the entire fourth quarter. Chicago had tallied just eight total points in over seven minutes of play, but that was enough to wipe out a six-point Miami lead (71-65) after three quarters. The United Center crowd was possessed with maniacal intensity, and the Heat – withering on the vine in their offensive sets – were unable to score after using the transition game to build a 67-56 lead in the third quarter. Someone needed to fill the void. Someone needed to break the team’s scoring drought. Someone had to take charge if the Heat were going to get the split they had to produce in Chi-Town.

Enter LeBron. King James nailed a three-pointer to break the 73-all deadlock with 4:29 left. He then stuck a 14-foot fadeaway after solid Miami screens put James on a smaller Derrick Rose. James later hit a layup after going strong to the basket, and when he drilled a 20-footer for good measure in the final minute, Miami owned an 84-75 lead and certain victory. Udonis Haslem, receiving the first extended playing time of the postseason since suffering an early-season injury, carried Miami through the third period and finished with 13 crucial points, but at crunch time, LeBron – who finished with 29 – delivered the last and most important statement of the game.

Chicago continued to play hard, but the Bulls couldn’t hit the side of a barn. The Bulls scored just 29 points in the second half. They hit just 3 of 20 threes. They missed 10 of 26 foul shots. Their defense kept them in contention for 46 minutes, but LeBron’s late flurry finally finished them off.

These teams will take three more days off before playing Game 3 in Miami next Sunday. We’ll see if the extended break takes away LeBron’s confidence and restores Chicago’s shooting stroke. The answers will have a lot to say about the way this series unfolds.

 

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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Senior Staff Writer


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