Posted May 07, 2013

Three-Pointers: Fearless Bulls deliver Heat’s first loss of playoffs

2013 NBA playoffs, Ben Golliver, Chicago Bulls, Jimmy Butler, LeBron James, Miami Heat, Nate Robinson
(Issac Baldizon/Getty Images)

Jimmy Butler (left) made LeBron James work for four quarters. (Issac Baldizon/Getty Images)

The Bulls defeated the Heat 93-86 in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference semifinals series on Monday night.

Against all odds. Over the last three months, Miami has now lost to Chicago twice as many times (2) as it has to anyone else in the NBA combined (1). The first loss snapped the Heat’s ridiculous 27-game winning streak, ending a run at history, but Monday’s loss was every bit as shocking, and perhaps more so. Miami held every meaningful circumstantial advantage — home court, rest, health, overall talent — and yet collapsed in the game’s final two minutes to lose for the first time in more than a month.

How did this happen when Miami had eight days between games after a sweep and Chicago finished off a Game 7 on Saturday? How did this happen without Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich? How did this happen in Miami, where the Heat lost just four times all season? How did this happen with a Miami team led by LeBron James, who has seemed as close to invulnerable as an NBA player has been in years?

“Nobody had us winning any games,” Bulls guard Nate Robinson said after Game 1. “I heard we were getting swept.”

The undermanned Bulls operate and succeed in such a collective manner — five players in double figures, plus-14 as a team on the glass — that prioritizing the credit can sometimes be a difficult process. But Game 1 featured superb performances from both Robinson (27 points, three rebounds, nine assists) and Jimmy Butler (21 points, 14 rebounds, three assists), who together outscored, outrebounded and outassisted the Heat’s All-Star duo of James (24 points, eight rebounds, seven assists) and Dwyane Wade (14 points, two rebounds, four assists). Not bad for a minimum-salary pipsqueak and the last guy taken in the first round of the 2011 draft.

Nike unveils ‘MVP’ edition of LeBron James’ signature shoe

We casually toss around the “superhuman” tag with James, but Butler was right there with him in outer space when it came to tirelessness, focus and competitiveness. Play after play, Butler shadowed James defensively, fighting through picks, absorbing contact, avoiding foul trouble, encouraging and contesting jumpers and generally making life uncomfortable for the 2013 MVP, who rarely looks uncomfortable. It was all the more remarkable considering Butler has now played in all 48 minutes in each of Chicago’s last three games.

“There’s no really stopping him,” Butler said in a televised press conference after the game. “It’s all about containment. We tried to make everything tough for him.”

James picked up the pieces after a rough start (he shot just 1-for-6 in the first half) to score 12 of Miami’s first 14 points in the fourth quarter, but he didn’t make a field goal in the game’s final six minutes, as the Heat blew a seven-point lead.

“Jimmy is going to work the whole time,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I thought there were plays that Jimmy defended as well as you can and LeBron still has the ability to make.”

In the game’s final sequences, the Heat caved mentally before the Bulls did, as Wade rushed and missed a three-pointer on one key possession and James airballed a jumper on the next. On the other end, Robinson was busy scoring the game’s final seven points, a testament to his own indefatigability, given he played 40 minutes and would have played more if not for a blow to his mouth (more below).

Writer explains why his MVP vote went to Carmelo over LeBron

The duo agreed afterward that Miami’s supposed invincibility brings out the Bulls’ best attributes, namely their fearlessness and aggressiveness.

“We’re always going to be the underdogs,” Butler said. “We take pride in that.”

Robinson added: “We just give them our all.”

Bloodied. With a little more than four minutes remaining in the second quarter, Robinson and James both went diving after a loose ball, with James landing on Robinson’s head. Here’s a look at the play via YouTube user NBAClip.

The Bulls’ guard, who was forced to the locker room with blood coming from his mouth, told reporters that he received 10 stitches before he returned for the second half.

“[My teammates] expect you to get stitched up and come back out there,” Robinson said. “And that’s what I did.”

He went on to score 11 fourth-quarter points to bring home the upset.

Spectacular, even on a forgettable night. Remember that annoying “My better is better than your better” Nike campaign? James’ Game 1 was a reminder that his bad/worst is still better than just about everyone’s better/best. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra came out hard with a “no excuses” tone to his postgame news conference, fully aware of how difficult the Bulls make life for his team but also certain that James is unlikely to look as out of sorts as he did through much of this game as the series progresses.

But even on a night where he started slowly and ended with the airball, James finished with big numbers and at least two jaw-dropping moments.

Early in the fourth quarter, James rose high to throw down a dunk despite a shove from Joakim Noah. Video via YouTube user Patrick Gonzalez.

Then, a few minutes later, he broke out in transition for an unbelievable banked-in finish with his left hand on the move after taking a wrap-up blow from Butler. The combination of skills and instincts it takes to finish such a play so effortlessly is just silly.

41 comments
MetteyyaBrahmana
MetteyyaBrahmana

COACHING ERRORS down the stretch did Miami in.  What is Ray Allen doing on Nate Robinson in the final seconds?  Why doesn't LeBron take to  the basket EVERY TIME in the final 2 minutes when Miami had a 3 point lead and FIVE FOULS on Noah?

Cal5
Cal5

" The combination of skills and instincts it takes to finish such a play so effortlessly is just silly."  It has a lot more to do with the fact that Lebron James is 270 pounds of muscle, and most of the guys guarding him are 40-50 pounds lighter.  I'm sure if Jimmy Butler, who goes about 220, was being guarded by a guy weighing 170, he'd be able to make that same play.

Joe R2
Joe R2

Heart trumps talent every once in a while.  Last night was a perfect example.  The entitled brats from Miami just realized they have a fight on their hands...

socialcheater
socialcheater

They slept walk through the Milwaukee series.  They didn't take them seriously.  It seems they brought the same mentality last night and it finally bit them.  This will be their wake up call.  

OK
OK

Expect The Queen and Her Court to shoot 50 free throws in game two of the series.

No way in hell Commish Stern will allow The Queen, The Little Bosh Woman, and Show Me Da Green Or I Ain't Playin' For Da Red, White, and Blue to drop two games at home.

You'll see Noah on the bench with two personal fouls in the first three minutes. Boozer and Gibson will get their third personals by halftime. Noah will foul out by the end of the third quarter.

The Queen and Her Court will be given the Dubya. Commish Stern's not going to upset the suits in Bristol.

m.guszak
m.guszak

The Rose issue should be moot. He has not played in over a year. I find it hard to believe that he is ready to step in and play at this level after such a break. I often wonder how Chicago would execute with him thrown in the mix all of a sudden. They have played as a unit all year without him.

HansBickel
HansBickel

When you want something badly enough, GOD will give it to you.  GOD appreciates intensity, especially when it comes to love.

robert29
robert29

The Bulls are making it real easy to be a fan. This was a remarkable and stunning win. Still, I don't give Chicago much of a chance to win the series, but it will be more competitive and entertaining than I thought. Butler did play great defense on Lebron James on a number of baskets; he's MVP for a reason. 

Eric39
Eric39

It was never a skill issue with Nate, you just didn't know if you were going to get the "horns or the halo". Great job Bulls!

OK
OK

And The Queen jumped on Little Bleep Nate in a blatant assault and battery.

Pure The Queen. Beat up on a smaller player. That's The Queens' lack of style, character, and class.

OK
OK

The Queen and Her Court played like pure B Rhymes With Itches and CHOKED in front of the faithful.

The Queen's Airball! in the final minute was Pure Loser.

Nothing from The Little Bosh Woman.

Nothing from Show Me Da Green Or I Ain't Playin' For Da Red, White, and Blue.

The Queen and Her Court hit the Automatic Choke.

m.guszak
m.guszak

I know it is hard for some to understand how a "dynasty" like the Heat could lose to an understaffed Bulls team in game 1 at home. I mean, we have all grown up with Heat championships every year. Got so you could set your calendar to them.

christopher.amaro33
christopher.amaro33

The Heat are the prohibitive favorites among those "in the know" to win it all.

Yet two things are true:

1. That the Heat will not lose a single playoff game is ridiculous.

2. Underestimating your opponent leads to defeat more often than not.


Jive_Turkey
Jive_Turkey

"How did this happen?"  You make it sound like this was an upset.

nathan l
nathan l

The NBA is only fun when LeBron loses. 

BruthaD
BruthaD

So...Nate Robinson has a guy twice his size land on his head to the point where he's bleeding profusely from the mouth and he goes back into the game.  Meanwhile, Derrick Rose sits on the sideline?  Coward.

Joe R2
Joe R2

@OK 

I totally agree.  Stern's goons will make sure they don't go down 0-2 


RonHawkster
RonHawkster

@HansBickel So you don't badly enough want to be a super athlete, be able to fly, be the president of America, be an inventor, because if you had just wanted it "badly enough" God would have given it to you.

metalkiwis
metalkiwis

@OK James is a bitch, but it's not his fault he is bigger and stronger than everyone else in the league.

nfinitwordsfoto
nfinitwordsfoto

@OK LOl, you sound like a complete and total loser.  "The Queen".  LMAO!  How original...

Randy M1
Randy M1

@m.guszak The Heat have only won 2 championships, last year and in 2006.  Otherwise they have not won anything.  The Heat are not a Dynasty until they win several chairmanships in a short period of time.  The only NBA Dynasties are Lakers, Celtics.  Although the Bulls are close.

Randy M1
Randy M1

@BruthaD Derrick Rose has not played in a year, he will not be that much help.  It takes a while to get your game back and he will not help them that much.  It will take him half of next season to return to his full potential.

JDawg2013
JDawg2013

@BruthaD It is NOT Rose's decision to sit on the sideline. If it was up to him he would be on the court playing, calling him a coward is not fair. There are many factors that go into that decision, besides, the Bulls have proved that they are a good team even without Rose, defeating (and embarrassing) the number one team in the NBA at their own house! Robinson is on fire even with a busted lip and a couple of bruises. I really do not think Rose would play at a high level if he were to suit up for the playoffs.

pumabolt
pumabolt

@BruthaD 

Poor comparison, if you have ever watch Derrick Rose play, that break neck speed he plays at requires healthy knees; the incredible first step, the insane change of direction and the elevation on his drives to the basket requires his knee to be near 100% healed. Yes he could adapt his game, but I think it is too early in his career to ask him to adapt his game because of an injury that with time will heal completely. I think the Bulls management remembers the mistake the Pistons made with Grant Hill early in his career when they allowed him to play in the playoffs when he should have sat it out. We all know how that turned out for Grant Hill. Are the Bulls being overly cautious, I think they are, but with a franchise player like Derrick Rose, do you blame them. 

In his third season after the Spurs first championship Duncan got hurt and though he could have played the Spurs shut him down for the playoffs, the Spurs lost in the first round but they had a healthy Duncan next season, who has been relatively durable his entire career

Sami
Sami

@BruthaD Well even though Rose should be playing as he's been healthy enough for over a month now, how about we don't compare an ACL tear to a bumb on the lip. One takes 2 minutes to recover from, the other 10 months.

GoPSULions
GoPSULions

@BruthaDThe great players in sports play when hurt to help their teams.  Yes, Rose could get injured if he comes in, but he could get injured next year as well if he waits.  Mario Lemieux flew to Philly after his final radiation treatment for cancer and played that night.  That's what great players (or those that want to get to that category) do.

metalkiwis
metalkiwis

@RonHawkster @HansBickel Don't try to reason with an idiot. They most likely don't have the capacity to think beyond "the magic man in the sky did it".

SephirothDZX
SephirothDZX

Rose's knee has been healed for a while now. It's all in his head at this point because people keep reminding him of things like Grant Hill.

metalkiwis
metalkiwis

@SephirothDZX How do you know?


Every report says he can't move laterally. He can't defend. 


Sure he can jump, but there is a lot more than that involved.