It is not very often that a regular season contest in late January feels like a Playoff game; but that type of atmosphere filled the air at the American Airlines Center on Sunday afternoon as the Miami Heat welcomed the Chicago Bulls to South Beach. The game was a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals as well as featuring the teams with the two top records in the conference so far this season. This game would live up to the hype that the matchup generated; as the two opponents stood toe to toe trading blows until the final seconds of the contest. The two clubs were separated by a single point with 13 seconds until Mario Chalmers and Chris Bosh made critical shots at the charity stripe giving the Heat the win by a final score of 97-93.
LeBron James racked up a double-double including a game high 35 points for Miami while Chris Bosh also recorded a double-double with 24 points for the afternoon. Derrick Rose led the way for the Bulls with 34 points, but it would not be enough to stop the club that kept them from the NBA Finals last June.
Miami sprinted out front in the opening minutes of the first gaining a double-digit advantage with 4:31 remaining as James drove the lane putting the ball up and in and putting his team on top 18-7. Chicago would come charging back in the final minutes of the period and trailed 24-22 at the completion of the quarter. The Heat would once again hold a double-digit lead during the second but they saw their advantage shrink to 56-51 as the game reached the half.
With 43 seconds to play in the third Ronnie Brewer split a pair at the line making it a 74-71 affair with Miami holding the upper hand. James drained an outside jumper at the buzzer and the Heat were ahead 76-71 at the end of the quarter. Back to back treys by Shane Battier and James in the opening seconds of the fourth put Miami on top 82-71; however the Bulls would not go out without a fight. Rose drove the lane with 6:54 left putting the rock through the hole and knotting up the contest at 84-84. Chicago however could not get over the hump and although they cut their opponent’s lead to a single point in the closing seconds Miami would send their fans home with a smile.
James knocked down 35 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and a block for the afternoon. Bosh scored 24 points, 12 rebounds, a block and a steal while Dwyane Wade added 15 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, a block and a steal.
Rose had 34 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds, 1 block and 1 steal while Joakim Noah notched a double-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks and 1 steal. Richard Hamilton also contributed 11 points while Brewer and Carlos Boozer each added 10 points in the loss. Miami now has a record of 15-5 and will host the Hornets on Monday while Chicago now stands at 17-5 and travel to Washington where they will take on the Wizards on Monday.