The Miami Heat have taken the lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals, beating the Chicago Bulls 104-94 in Game 3 of the series Friday night.
LeBron James struggled (shooting 6 of 17), but managed to finish with 25 points (10 in the fourth quarter), 8 rebounds, and 7 assists. He hit a 3-pointer to give the Heat a 7-point lead with 2:34 remaining and converted a 3-point play to give the Heat a 9-point lead with 1:23 to go (icing the game).
Chris Bosh scored 20 points and grabbed 19 rebounds. Norris Cole scored 18 points off the bench, including seven in the fourth quarter.
All five Bulls starters scored in double figures, led by Carlos Boozer with 21 points. Jimmy Butler and Nate Robinson scored 17 points each. Joakim Noah had 15 points and 11 rebounds.
The Bulls continued to play very physically, even after the whistle. Joakim Noah earned a technical foul in the first quarter for pushing Chris Andersen off (who had just collided with Nate Robinson while trying to block his shot).
But that paled in comparison to when Nazr Mohammed shoved LeBron James hard to the ground in the second quarter. As James dribbled up the floor, Mohammed reached in and tried to steal the ball near midcourt. Their arms got tangled and Mohammed fell. He then got up and shoved James.
Both were given technical fouls, but Mohammed was ejected for the shove (he was also charged a personal foul for the first action).
Chicago led by seven points at one point in the second quarter, but the first three quarters were very tight (the two were tied after the first and third quarters, and Miami led by only two at the half).
Chicago scored often in the paint (outscoring Miami 44-28 in the paint overall), and grabbed a bunch of offensive boards early (7 in the first half). Miami struggled to penetrate Chicago's defense, but was efficient outside, shooting 40 percent from three-point range and 50 percent overall.
In the fourth quarter, though, Miami ran away from the Bulls. Miami got looks in the paint and got timely 3-pointers from James, Bosh, and Cole.
Chicago ran out of gas, and nearly ran out of players. Besides the Mohammed ejection, Noah fouled out, and Mario Belinelli missed important minutes in the second half due to foul trouble.
Game 4 will be played Monday night in Chicago.
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