The video above is basically the quick-hit, short-take, brief summation of the Miami Heat/Chicago Bulls Eastern Conference semifinals. Without dismissing either team’s significant talents, the block that 5-9 Bulls guard Nate Robinson came through with against four-time MVP LeBron James in the third quarter of Miami’s 104-94 Game 3 win on Friday night was symbolic. The move dramatically came out of nowhere to stop one important shot, but the distraction hardly mattered in the end as Chicago’s stones failed to fell Goliath, and the defending champion Miami Heat took a 2-1 series lead.
The Heat regained the home court advantage by waiting out a Bulls attack that simply could not keep up offensively in the second half, while falling prey to opportunistic three-point bombs on the other end of the court. Heat reserve Norris Cole scored 18 points off of the Miami bench, knocking in 3-3 three-pointers to drag his long range mark to 8-8 in the conference semis, while James hung tough despite what was a miserable start to his evening.
LeBron missed 10 of his first 14 shots, but ended up finishing with 25 points by glomming onto good three-point looks and earning trips to the free throw line – making all 11 of his attempts on the night. Chris Bosh also bounced back after an ineffective start to the series with 20 points and 19 rebounds, while Chicago’s bench only went seven-deep (following the deserved ejection of Nazr Mohammed in the first half) while missing eight of 12 shots overall.
Robinson’s 37th career block was one of several Chicago highlights, as the determined Bulls soldiered on without Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng once again. Still, Miami’s wearying depth and solid spacing on both ends did the Bulls in. Each of Chicago’s starters did well to cover defensively and once again keep the ball moving on offense, but there was only so much this Bulls team could do when the ball ended up in, say, the hands of an All-Star center like Chris Bosh as he nailed a three-pointer. And there was precious little the injury-plagued Bulls could do when a sixth foul from a playoff luminary like Shane Battier resulted in a potential Hall of Famer like Ray Allen coming off the bench in reserve.
The Bulls have chances to improve. They can communicate better when it comes to three-point coverage, and they can hope to keep the Heat off the line less (this was not an accurately called game, for either side) in Game 4, but the team also has to be aware of what it’s up against. The Bulls are Nate Robinson, a minimum-salaried free agent to-be going up against the class of the league in LeBron James – hoping the MVP will show the ball long enough to steal a deflection.
It’s a hope, and not a game plan. Chicago has enough in its tank and enough plans in place to let Game 4 churn into Game 5, 6 and beyond, but there’s only so much you can do against the defending champs. Some 144 minutes into this series, that’s the feeling you get about these desperate Bulls.
Does Tom Thibodeau’s team feel the same? We’ll find out in Game 4.