In my preview I said that to win Game 3 the Heat had to get a little nasty — and the Heat certainly did, matching the Chicago Bulls’ toughness with their own grittiness.
The game see-sawed back and forth for basically the entire game, with teams getting chippy and chirpy with each other. The nasty tone of the game was set in the first quarter with Nazr Mohammed shoving LeBron to the floor and getting ejected in the process.
With five minutes left in the game, and with the Chicago Bulls only down five points and with the momentum, LeBron James and Norris Cole made some huge plays to carry the Heat down the stretch in a hostile atmosphere. Norris Cole hit a three to extend the Heat’s lead to seven. LeBron James had an and-1 to further extend the lead to ten.
This stretch of play was atypical of this game. The Bulls and Heat would trade punches, but every time the Bulls had the momentum the Heat would steal it away quickly with a three pointer or an easy basket. That being said, this game was probably a little too close for the Heat’s liking (they were only up by two points at halftime), especially since the Bulls were missing Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich.
Dwyane Wade had a good game for the Heat (20 points on 8-for-16 shooting) as did Norris Cole (18 points, 3-for-3 from three point range), though the rest of the team, with the exception of LeBron, struggled to score.. On the other hand, while the Chicago Bulls starters had good games (every starter had 15 or more points) the Bulls essentially only had two bench players after Nazr Mohammed got ejected. This meant that four Bulls players played 40+ minutes — by comparison, Wade and LeBron were the only Heat players to play 40+ minutes. This is going to be a key point to monitor for the rest of the series — how many minutes the Bulls players log versus the Heat players. I suspect that as this series slogs on, the minutes that the Bulls have logged will catch up with their players.
Here are some key stats from the game:
- FG% — Heat (50%), Bulls (45.5%)
- 3FG% — Heat (40%), Bulls (31.8%)
- FT% — Heat (86.7%), Bulls (68%)
- Rebounds — Heat (39), Bulls (37)