Three players who left Cleveland were key in the Heat taking control of the series with a win at Chicago. The original villian Carlos Boozer, who tricked the Cavs into rewriting a contract to sneak out of town, scored 10 of the first 14 for the Bulls, including a thunderous dunk on Chris Bosh. In 61 seconds near the end of the game, Norris Cole, who was a surprise Heat pick out of Cleveland State, and the city’s biggest villian, LeBron James, combined for nine points in three trips down the court to seal the win 104-94.
Chris Bosh was the steady force throughout with 20 points and 19 rebounds, but it was the three former Cleveland residents who took turns on center stage.
Carlos Boozer made five of six shots in the first 6 1/2 minutes to account for 10 points by the time the score was tied 14-14, including a thunderous dunk on Bosh.
Cole then came in for Mario Chalmers late in the first quarter, and gave the Heat the spark plug they needed to matchup against the talkative Nate Robinson. Cole let Robinson know every time Robinson missed a three-pointer (he was one of seven) and every time Cole hit one on him (he was three of three).
With the Heat trailing 21-24 with 1:10 to play in the first quarter, Cole drained a three-pointer to tie the game, then he opened teh fourth quarter with a 20-footer while being fouled, hitting the free throw to put Miami up 28-25.A few minutes later he drained another three-pointer and then hit from midrange to keep Miami close at 40-43. His three-pointer late in the game in between two three-point plays by James made it 96-88.
Of course, James was center stage. He scored only four points through 23 minutes of play, but grabbed a rebound with the Heat down 31-28 that may have been the turning point. James sprinted downthe court after grabbing the rebound with 9:31 to go and as he picked up steam Nazr Mohammed grabbed him just past half court. Mohammed may not have seen that Jimmy Butler had actually gotten back to set up to defend the drive, and two other Bulls had him flanked.
The play turned into the classic escalation. In reponse to Mohammed’s foul, James pushed his arm free and knocked Mohammed to the court – technical James. Mohammed then got up and deliberately three James across the floor to the joy of most in Chicago and back in Cleveland – ejection Mohammed. The short-staffed Bulls were down yet another player.
With one minute to go in the third quarter, the Bulls had held James to only 10 points and led 69-66. James nailed a three-pointer off an assist from Wade to tie it 69-69. He later broke the tie with two free throws to make it 76-75.
Then with 2:34 to play, he pulled up and buried another three-pointer to make to put a dagger in the Bulls 93-86. After Cole’s three-pointer, James went to the hoop for a traditional three-point play – drawing the foul on Boozer while hitting a shot and then adding the free throw to make it 99-90. He hit four more free throws down the stretch to wrap up the 104-94 win.