CHICAGO -- LeBron James
scored 27 points and the Miami Heat
moved within one victory of advancing to the Eastern Conference finals with an 88-65 victory over the Chicago Bulls
on Monday at the United Center.
Miami can close out this second-round series by winning Game 5 at home on Wednesday. Chris Bosh
was the only other Miami player in double figures, with 14 points.
Most of this win can be chalked up to defense. The Bulls shot a miserable 25.7 percent from the field, setting franchise playoff lows for field-goal percentage and points.
The game started just after 6 p.m. local time and the early tip, combined with rough traffic, created some issues for the home fans. Normally one of the league's better atmospheres, the United Center was half-empty and quieter than usual at the start.
The Bulls followed suit, hitting just 1 of their first 12 shots while falling behind 11-2. Chicago was back within 21-15 by the end of the first quarter.
Chris Andersen opened the second with a 3-point play, then Shane Battier and Ray Allen added 3-pointer to send Miami's lead to 30-17.
From that point, the Bulls got as close as seven points a few times, but that was always when they seemed to run out of gas. Chicago scored just nine points in the third quarter and the Heat began to stretch it out, with Norris Cole
canning a long 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it 61-42 heading into the fourth.
Point guard Nate Robinson had been a catalyst for the Bulls throughout the playoffs, but couldn't get going on this night. Through three quarters, he was 0-for-12 from the field with four turnovers.
Carlos Boozer led the Bulls with 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Jimmy Butler added 12 points.
In the second quarter, veteran guard Richard Hamilton
made his first appearance of the series for Chicago. After missing a long stretch late in the season with a back injury, Hamilton made just two brief appearances in the first-round against Brooklyn.
When Marco Belinelli picked up his third foul at the 10:19 mark of the second quarter, Hamilton checked in to a loud ovation. He knocked down a 3-point basket just over two minutes later. He eventually played 22 minutes and scored 11 points.
Miami guard Dwyane Wade appeared to injure his right knee in the second quarter. He came out of the game and rolled up the sleeve covering the knee, but checked back in a few minutes later and seemed to be OK. He scored six points in 29 minutes of action.
NOTES: James was named to the all-defensive first team for the fifth straight season. He received the second-most votes from NBA coaches, just behind Memphis guard Tony Allen. "We pride ourselves on defense here and I'm one of the catalysts as far as taking that part of the ball very seriously," James said before Game 4. ... Chicago center Joakim Noah also made the all-defensive first team, the first Bulls player to earn that distinction since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in 1998. "I think down the road, Joakim has a very good chance to be Defensive Player of the Year," Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. ... Once again, the Bulls played without Derrick Rose (knee surgery), Kirk Hinrich (calf bruise) and Luol Deng, who is still struggling with a bad reaction to a spinal tap administered on May 2. Deng said Sunday when he tried to do an individual workout, he threw up after a few minutes. Deng was active for Game 4, but never appeared on the bench. ... According to Elias Sports Bureau, Miami guard Norris Cole is the first player to take as many as eight shots from 3-point range over a three-game span in the playoffs and make them all. Cole's streak ended with his first 3-point attempt on Monday.
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