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Heat 88, Bulls 65
LeBron James and Miami didn’t even give Chicago room to breathe, practically squeezing the playoff life out of it to take a commanding lead in its Eastern Conference semifinal.
Another effort like this will seal it.
James scored 27 points and the Heat nearly matched a franchise record for fewest points allowed in a playoff game, pounding the listless and short-handed Bulls on Monday night to take a 3-1 lead in the series.
“We worked for it,” said Heat forward Chris Bosh. “I never like to say that things are easy.”
The Heat sure made it look that way, though.
The 65 points allowed were only two more than the all-time postseason low for a Miami opponent, and it was easily the worst offensive performance by a Chicago team in the playoffs.
Never before had the Bulls scored fewer than 69 in a playoff game nor 10 or less in a quarter during the postseason, but both those marks fell on a night when they were dominated on both ends of the floor.
Miami led by 11 at the half and put this one away in the third quarter, outscoring Chicago 17-9 in the period.
Now the Heat will try to wrap up the series at home Wednesday night, taking what they hope will be the next step toward a second straight championship.
It’s hard to believe the Bulls won the series opener the way the past three games have gone.
Miami pounded Chicago in Game 2, coming away with its most lopsided playoff victory while handing the Bulls their worst ever postseason loss — and the Heat continued to roll from there.
James had his usual complete game with eight assists and seven rebounds Monday.
Bosh finished with 14 points after scoring 20 and grabbing 19 rebounds in Game 3, and the Heat won again despite another quiet night from Dwyane Wade (six points), whose right knee was bothering him again. He appeared to aggravate it on a fallaway jumper during the game but was able to return after getting re-taped.
The Bulls again were missing ailing Luol Deng and injured Kirk Hinrich (calf), and a team that kept finding ways to win despite being short-handed all season simply appeared to run out of steam, even though coach Tom Thibodeau rejected that idea.
“No,” he said. “I think the thing is they’re (Heat) a great team. We have to come out with great intensity — but we also have to make shots.”
Carlos Boozer had 14 points and 12 rebounds for his fifth double-double in the postseason but was just 3 of 14 from the field. Jimmy Butler scored 12 and Joakim Noah grabbed nine rebounds, but it was a miserable night for Chicago — particularly Nate Robinson. With Cole and Mario Chalmers harassing him and the big men helping out, he missed all 12 of his shots and did not score.
Richard Hamilton scored 11 points in a rare postseason appearance, and the former All-Star guard made it clear afterward he’s not thrilled with his reduced role.
“Lot of stuff in life you don’t understand,” he said. “This (playoffs) is what I was brought here for. To not be able play and help my teammates, it’s hard, it’s rough. But I try to stay positive. I don’t try to rock the boat.”
Hamilton said he and Thibodeau have talked. Then, he reiterated, “It’s hard to understand.”
Grizzlies 103, Thunder 97 (OT)
Memphis is proving it knows how to grab an advantage and hold onto it this postseason.
Tony Allen scored on a driving layup to open overtime and the Grizzlies held off Oklahoma City to push the defending Western Conference champions to the edge of elimination.
The Grizzlies shook off a first half in which they couldn’t hit shots and the Thunder seemingly couldn’t miss in building their largest lead in this series at 17 points. But the Grizzlies have yet to lose on their home court this postseason, and they won their third straight and seventh in eight games to grab a 3-1 lead in the series.
Game 5 is Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.
The Grizzlies outscored the Thunder 9-3 in overtime.
Kevin Durant scored 27 points but missed all five of his shots in the extra period, including a layup in the final seconds. Durant went 2 of 13 in the fourth quarter and overtime and had only five points. The All Star played 48 minutes and was just short on his shots as the game wore on.
Durant got the help from his teammates that he had been needing. Kevin Martin scored 18 points, Serge Ibaka had his best game of the series with 17 points and 14 rebounds, and Reggie Jackson had 15. Nick Collison even added 10.
Mike Conley led Memphis with 24 points and Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph each had double-doubles. Randolph had 23 and 12, while Gasol had 23 and 11 along with six blocks on the day the Defensive Player of Year was named to the NBA’s second All-Defensive team along with Conley, who had four steals.
Allen, who finished with 10 points, had three steals on the day he edged LeBron James for most points for the NBA’s All-Defensive team.
In 2011, the Grizzlies were the team that blew the big lead in the first half of Game 4 with the Thunder pulling out the win to even up the series. They also wasted home-court advantage last year in the playoffs in the opening round against the Clippers.
This time, the Thunder were up by as much as 17 in the first half and 12 in the third. But Memphis used a 20-8 run in the third to get back into this game. They blew a chance to close out the win when Ibaka blocked a shot by Randolph just before the buzzer in regulation.
But Allen scored to open overtime, then Randolph rebounded a miss by Marc Gasol and scored on a putback.
Derek Fisher, who missed his first four shots, finally hit a 3-pointer. But the 38-year-old veteran also had his inbound pass stolen by Allen with 21.1 seconds left and Memphis up 100-97.