While some people may credit the Chicago Bulls for their stunning game 1 win in Miami, most will say the Heat lost the game due to their week plus layoff.
Now while the Heat did come out ice cold from the floor, their defense still created turnovers that kept them in the game. And despite shooting under 35% in the first half, the Heat were tied at the half. One would think the shorthanded Bulls would eventually fall victim to the machine known as the Miami Heat. Perhaps the Heat thought the same thing. However, in the second half, the Bulls wouldn't go away.
The Heat picked it up on offense in the second half, but the Bulls offense that ranks towards the bottom of the league, blitzed the Heat defense for 56 second half points. Rather remarkable considering all the missing bodies. The Bulls even withstood a LeBron James barrage in the second half. James, who played the role of facilitator in the first half, only scored 2 points by the break. James came to life in the second half, scoring 22 points.
The Heat built a 7 point lead midway through the fourth quarter. I'm sure most people watching at that point had to be thinking the Heat would run the Bulls out of the building and cruise to a game 1 win. But the Bulls refused to go away and battled back to tie the game.
Every time the Heat went ahead, the Bulls had a response. And then something happened. The Bulls didn't get the memo that they were supposed to stop making shots, and that the Heat would squeak out a tough game 1 win. I'm not sure which was more amazing: Guys like Nate Robinson, Jimmy Butler and Marco Belinelli made huge 4th quarter shots, or guys like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh failed to answer those clutch shots.
What more can be said about Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau that hasn't already been said? Despite being shorthanded he still benched struggling Carlos Boozer for the majority of the second half. Taj Gibson, who was battling the flu, rose to the occasion by contributing on both sides of the floor. Gibson drained a 19 foot jumper in LeBron's face to give the Bulls a one point lead.
Even after Nate Robinson left the game late 2nd quarter due to a cut on his lip that required 10 stitches, 4th string point guard Marquis Teague kept the Bulls in the game prior to the half. It just doesn't seem to matter; put on a uniform and you will maximize your talents under coach Thibodeau. Well, unless your name is Carlos Boozer, who was awful and appeared to want nothing to do with this game. No surprise.
By this point in the season, who hasn't become a fan of Jimmy Butler aka Jimmy Buckets? The second year player from Marquette has now played all 48 minutes in three consecutive games. And to think he had the unenviable task of guarding the 4-time NBA MVP for as long as James was on the floor. Butler showed no fear, as he got right up on James and forced him into difficult shots, and made him pass perhaps more than he wanted to in certain situations.
And how about Nate "ice water" Robinson? 22 second half points with the stitches in his lip. Nate played under control and made the two clutch shots that delivered the game 1 win. Still shocked that Spoelstra allowed Ray Allen to be on the floor in that situation. Nate treated Allen like he wasn't even in front of him. Great job taking advantage of that mismatch.
And now everyone will talk about how angry James and the Heat will be in game 2. Well, they should be after that effort. I just question whether or not this Tom Thibodeau led team will back down at all. The Bulls do not fear the Heat whatsoever. Conversely, did you see the Heat's body language and facial expressions during the game? Almost looked like they were saying "Damn, we have to play this team?"
As I've said previously, even should the Heat win this series, they will know they were in a war and may be susceptible going forward after such a battle. Keep in mind, albeit being a five game series, the Bulls gave the Heat all they could handle in the Eastern Conference finals two years ago. And then the Heat lost to the Mavs in the finals. Last year due to the Rose injury, the Heat avoided the Bulls in the postseason. Not so lucky this year.
Should be a fun game 2.