There wasn't a lot for the Chicago Bulls or their fans to cheer during Friday night's 104-94 Game 3 loss, marked as it was by a second-quarter ejection, postgame flopping charges and a 34-point Miami Heat fourth quarter. When you run out of gas late, drop a 10-point decision, give back home-court advantage and watch the defending champs take a 2-1 series lead, it's hard to find too much to applaud.
There was, however, this third-quarter dispute between Heat big man Chris Bosh and point guard Mario Chalmers, which Chicago center Joakim Noah seemed to enjoy a whole bunch (offering us the opportunity to enjoy his enjoyment):
It's not exactly news that the Heat's stars love ragging on Chalmers, or that such public air-outs don't seem to have much effect on the confidence of a player who will gladly tell you he thinks he's one of the league's 10 best point guards. What's kind of amazing, though, is that they happen often enough that Miami's head coach has names for them — and that he kind of likes them.
"Those," coach Erik Spoelstra said Sunday, "are called, 'Miami Heat huddles,' 'Miami Heat exchanges,' 'Miami Heat dialogue.' I get much more concerned when our dialogue is not passionate." [...]
"That was a healthy conversation that was very demonstrative and animated," Spoelstra said. "But it was very specific and detailed to our spacing. I actually very much like that dialogue."
Especially when it comes in the service of correcting the kind of coverage breakdowns that help allow a severely depleted and undermanned squad play the NBA's best team even through three quarters of a pivotal Game 3. More from Winderman:
"We had a specific game plan that we talked about," Bosh explained. "I made a play and [Chalmers] didn't follow that game plan. I was going to be in a specific place and he thought I was going to be in another place. And I had to talk about it.
"We got over it. We talked about it. And we ironed it out and that was it after that."
Well, that was definitely it for Chalmers — he didn't play a tick in the fourth quarter, as backup Norris Cole continued his red-hot play with seven fourth-quarter points, including a big 3-pointer to push Miami's lead to eight points with less than two minutes remaining. Bosh was huge down the stretch, scoring eight of his 20 points and grabbing five of his game-high 19 rebounds in the fourth to earn the Bulls' respect ("He got them that game," Carlos Boozer said Sunday) and help pace Miami to a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Clearly, Noah's appreciation of the squabble didn't get in either participants' heads too much:
"That was a conversation Chris and I were having and we were trying to figure out something," he said. "I wasn't worried about what Joakim was doing."
Of Noah's clapping, Bosh said, "Of course I was aware of it, but that just goes in there with all the other distractions that I don't pay attention to."
Sharp focus in trying times. Let's give those men a round of applause.