Nate Robinson was hotter than the Heat, teaming up with Jimmy Butler to score 48 points in the Bulls’ 93-86 win over the Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Robinson scored 27 points, Butler added 21 points and a career- high- tying 14 rebounds. The Bulls snapped Miami’s 27- game winning streak in the regular season- the second longest in NBA history- and they found a way to topple the champs again, this time ending a run of 12 straight Heat victories overall.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Bulls were lagging behind by seven points, but it wasn’t enough to doom the Bulls who finished the game on a 10-0 run in the final 1:59. Surprisingly, the Bulls weren’t anywhere near full strength. Kirk Hinrich was out again with a calf injury; Luol Deng isn’t even expected to rejoin the team until Tuesday, after dealing with an illness apparently so severe that a spinal tap- and other tests since- were needed to rule out things like meningitis.
“So proud of my team man, this bed might be good luck after all,” Deng wrote on twitter after the game with a photo of him in a hospital bed.
Derick Rose remained sidelined, his position since April 2012.
However, the Heat are 41-3 in their last 44 games- with two of those losses to the Bulls, who are now 3-2 against Miami this season.
“I think when you are facing adversity, you have to be mentally tough,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “But this is just one game. We have to play a lot better in our next one.
Lebron James got his MVP trophy from Commissioner David Stern before the game, and then struggled to a two- point first half before finishing with 24 points, 8 rebounds and seven assists for Heat. Dwayne Wade added 14 for the Heat, who had no one else in double figures. Overall, they finished shooting 40% from the floor and were outrebounded 46-32.
“I am not stunned,” James said. “This is what the playoffs is all about. We are going a really good team.
Miami was outscored 35-24 in the fourth, a situation that angered the Heat coach Erick Spoeltra afterwards.
“There is no excuse,” Spoeltra, whose team had not played in more than a week, said. “We are not making any excuses for time off or anything else.”
Nate Robinson had a bad day on the court as he needed ten stitches, five in his lip and five more inside his mouth, to close a nasty cut he sustained when he drove for a loose ball with James and struck his head on the court late in the first half.
Staging an amazing return, he scored 24 points in those 24 minutes, including the crucial seven points for the win.
“He was born a scorer,” Mario Chalmer of Miami said about his opponent.
Joachim Noah scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Bulls, while Taj Gibson and Marco Belinelli both had 12 and 10 points respectively.
“We are not really a flashy team,” Gibson said. “We like to go out and do our job.”
A pair of three- point plays by James- one of them coming when he just broke through a tackle attempt by Butler and muscled his way to the rim- gave Miami a 76-69 lead midway through the fourth quarter, the biggest deficit Chicago faced all night.
Game 2 will come up on Wednesday night in Miami.