CHICAGO -- The records spoke for themselves, but on this night it was tough to tell how much credit belonged to the Miami Heat defense and how much of it was perpetually short-handed Chicago finally hitting a wall.
Probably a little of both.
LeBron James scored 27 points and the 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. The Bulls already won Game 1 at American Airlines Arena.
"We have to go in with a mindset to approach this game with desperation and urgency," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "This team is far too dangerous, as we have seen. This team will come to grind it out."
Chris Bosh was the only other Miami player besides James in double figures, with 14 points. 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.
Most of this game's result 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, overall points and also points in a quarter with nine in the third.
"We worked for it," Bosh said. "I never like to say things are easy. We had to bring a certain amount of intensity to the game. Sometimes it's the most difficult part to raise your intensity."
The game started just after 6 p.m. local time and the early tip, combined with rough traffic, created 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.
Miami's Chris Andersen opened the second with a 3-point play, then Shane Battier and Ray Allen added 3-pointer to open the Heat'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. The Heat began to stretch the lead out in the third quarter, with Norris Cole canning a long 3-pointer at the buzzer to make the score 61-42 heading into the fourth.
"We didn't play very well tonight," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "When you're playing against the champs, you've got to play a perfect game so you have a chance to beat them. It's disappointing, but there's still basketball left. It's not the end. It's do or die."
Point guard Nate Robinson had been a catalyst for the Bulls throughout the playoffs, but couldn't get going on this night. He didn't score and went 0-for-12 from the field with four turnovers.
"We've got another game coming up, so we've got another game to take a crack at it," Robinson said. "You never know, I might go 12-for-12. We've got to play together. Shots will fall. You just have to believe and keep your confidence. We'll be all right."
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.
NOTES: James was named to the NBA 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. ... 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 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.