The Chicago Bulls were missing All-Stars Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, as well as starter Kirk Hinrich, but still managed to beat the Miami Heat in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series, 93-86.
LeBron James scored 22 of his 24 points in the second half, adding 8 rebounds and 7 assists, but that was not enough for the Heat to win. The Heat shot just 40 percent from the field, including 7 of 29 from 3-point range.
"I'm not stunned," James said. "This is what the playoffs is all about. We're going against a really good team."
The Heat were a hot mess to start off the game, missing their first seven shots. Chicago held Miami to its lowest first-quarter point total of the season, jumping out to a 21-15 lead. The Heat partially recovered in the second quarter, and the two were tied at 37 by halftime.
Miami shot 13 for 39 during the first half, helping the Bulls keep it close despite their 10 first-half turnovers. The Heat were getting open looks for the most part, but shot 6 of 13 at the rim and 0 for 5 on corner 3-pointers.
The Heat's offense picked up in the second half, as those open looks started falling with more regularity. Miami led by as many as 7 points in the fourth quarter, and was nursing a three-point lead with just over two minutes to go, but failed to score through the remainder of the game.
Mario Belinelli hit a game-tying 3-pointer, then Nate Robinson.gave the Bulls the lead with a pull-up jumper. After a missed Dwyane Wade 3-pointer, Robinson extended the lead to 90-86 on drive to the hoop with 45 seconds to go.
The Heat looked rusty following an 8-day gap between Game 1 and the end of Miami's previous playoff series, but coach Erik Spoelstra dismissed the layoff as an explanation for his team's sloppy play.
"There's no excuses," said Spoelstra. "We're not making any excuses for time off or anything else."
Wade scored 14 points, while Chris Bosh and Ray Allen added 9 each. Chicago outrebounded Miami by a margin of 46-32, and the Heat shot a pedestrian 17 for 24 on free throws.
Nate Robinson led all scorers with 27 points for the Bulls, adding 9 assists. Jimmy Butler scored 21 points with 14 rebounds, while Joakim Noah had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
The evening began with James being awarded his fourth NBA MVP trophy. "Everybody here knows about the statistics," NBA Commissioner David Stern said in the pregame ceremony.
"All I would like to add in presenting this trophy is that LeBron James exemplifies the values of our game. Teamwork, passion, a continued extraordinary desire to improve, and a state of excellence that is unmatched. So thank you LeBron James, for what you bring to our league."
"It's an unbelievable achievement, but I wouldn't be able to do it without these 14 guys here, our coaching staff and most of all you guys," James said, speaking to the crowd. "This trophy is for you. So thank you so much, and let's get ready to go."
Game 2 of the series is on Wednesday night in Miami.
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