Monday, May 23, 2011

Chris Bosh lifts Miami Heat over Chicago Bulls

Chris Bosh missed his first three shots, and did not worry.

He was in rhythm. He was catching the ball where he wanted. And then midway through the first quarter, he finally saw the ball go through the hoop. "That was good enough for me," Bosh said.

And more than good enough for the Miami Heat, who are two wins from the NBA Finals.

Bosh made 13 of his final 15 shots on the way to a 34-point night, LeBron James finished with 22 points and 10 assists, and the Heat remained unbeaten at home in the postseason by beating the Chicago Bulls 96-85 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday night.

The Heat lead the series 2-1, and the blowout Game 1 defeat in Chicago a week ago seems far, far away for Miami.

"There is absolutely nothing easy in this series," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It's still all about enduring, sustaining and finding a way to grind it out."

Dwyane Wade added 17 points and nine rebounds for Miami, which is 7-0 at home in the playoffs and handed the team that finished with the NBA's best record its first losing streak since Feb. 5-7. Udonis Haslem sealed it with a jumper with 1:29 left, putting Miami up 93-84.

Game 4 is Tuesday in Miami.

Carlos Boozer finished with 26 points and 17 rebounds for Chicago, which had won the first four meetings of the season with Miami. Derrick Rose finished with 20 points, but struggled from the field again, making only 8 of his 19 shots.

The Bulls held James and Wade to a combined 12-for-30 showing from the floor. Against Bosh, Chicago had no answer.

"It's definitely frustrating," Rose said. "Our will wasn't there tonight. They still found a way to win."

Against the NBA's top field-goal-percentage defense this season, Miami shot 51 percent and scored 53 points after halftime. Plus, the Heat hit 25 of 29 from the foul line. Chicago was 16-for-21.

"Rebounding was good," Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Challenging their shots wasn't."

That was especially true for one critical stretch of the fourth quarter, when Miami turned a four-point game into one in which it had full control. A 9-0 spurt, capped by a three-point play from James with 5:07 left, was all it took to give the Heat an 87-74 edge, and the margin wasn't less than seven again.

So, meet the leading scorer in the East finals.

It's not Rose, Wade or James. It's Bosh - who took a bit of heat before the series began, when Boozer was quoted saying that Miami has only two great players, a clear nod toward the Heat having a so-called "Big Three."

"I always have respect," Boozer said Sunday night, asked about Bosh's game. "I never didn't have it."

Rose misquoted? Rose says he does not recall telling ESPN the Magazine that the league has a steroid problem.

The magazine's May 16 issue has a quote it attributes to Rose, in which he was quoted as saying the NBA has a "huge" problem and needs "a level playing field."

Before Game 3, Rose issued a statement saying he does not recall even being asked about the topic. He adds that if he was asked about performance-enhancing drug use, he "clearly misunderstood" the question.

Rose says, "Let me be clear, I do not believe there is a performance-enhancing drug problem in the NBA."

Tim Reynolds, Associated Press