With a win in Game 3, Miami’s home court advantage was restored — but more importantly, I think Chicago’s will (and ability) to win has been shattered, and Miami’s belief has only surged after stumbling in Game 1.
It wasn’t just that they lost in Chicago. It was that they got out-classed and out-played. From Nazr Mohammed’s full-bodied shove on LeBron James to Chicago’s dismal fourth quarter (the Heat outscored the Bulls, 34-24), by the end of the game, the Bulls knew they didn’t deserve to win.
Four of Chicago’s players have logged more than 110 minutes this series (Belinelli — 128 minutes, Butler — 127 minutes, Noah — 113 minutes, Robinson — 115 minutes) while the only Heat player with more than 110 minutes is LeBron James, who has logged 120 minutes.
Those tired legs are going to catch up to Chicago as this series goes on, especially if it continues to be as physical as it has been. But beyond the physical wear and tear is the mental fatigue of having played literally two hours (or more) of playoff basketball. In any circumstance, 120 minutes is a long time but to mentally focus for 120 minutes in an environment where every split-second is incredibly important and where you have to be locked in — that has got to be mentally taxing.
However, the Bulls had three days to mentally prepare for this game — which is now the most important game in the series. A Chicago loss here and the series is essentially over as the Heat would have to lose the next four straight games. The Heat are 43-3 in the past 46 games — four straight Heat losses are not happening. A Chicago win here and the series is all knotted up, and “on serve”.
I’m expecting a very tense game. Tom Thibodeau can’t be too pleased with what he saw from his Bulls team in Game 3, and that message will carry into Game 4. On the other side, I don’t there is a team outside of the Boston Celtics that the Heat dislike more than the Chicago Bulls. After Mohammed’s shove, after playing Joakim Noah for three games, after hearing all the uproar about losing Game 1, this team is ready to finish the Bulls.
And I just can’t wait for Noah to get ejected again.