The Chicago Bulls defeated Miami 103-82 in Game 1 of the National Basketball Association’s Eastern Conference finals, outscoring the Heat by 22 points over the final 19 minutes.
Derrick Rose scored 28 points for the Bulls, who trailed 58-57 last night before ending the game on a 46-24 scoring run at the United Center in Chicago. Luol Deng added 21 points for Chicago, which held Miami’s LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to a combined 33 points and held a 45-33 rebounding advantage.
“We took it on the chin,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said at a news conference. “Offensively, we got away from things we normally do. They’re a great defensive team.”
The Bulls, the top seed in the East, improved to 4-0 against the Heat this season and host Game 2 in the best-of-seven series in two days.
The Eastern Conference champion advances to the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks or Oklahoma City Thunder.
Oklahoma City reached the Western Conference finals yesterday with a 105-90 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 7 of their second-round playoff series. Kevin Durant scored 39 points to lead the Thunder, rebounding from his 11-point effort in a Game 6 loss at Memphis.
“They earned this win,” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said during a news conference. “Durant showed the heart of a champion.”
Bulls Pull Away
In Chicago, the Bulls used a 10-0 third-quarter scoring run to take the lead for good.
The Bulls hit 10 of 21 three-point attempts, including four by Deng, who limited James to 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting. Wade had 18 points for the Heat, while Chris Bosh led Miami with 30 points and nine rebounds.
Joakim Noah had 14 rebounds and Carlos Boozer added 14 points and nine rebounds for the Bulls, who had a league-leading 62 wins during the regular season. As the final minutes ticked off the clock, the fans in Chicago chanted “over-rated” at the second-seeded Heat, who are favored by oddsmakers to win the NBA championship.
“We know we’re a good team,” Deng said in a televised interview. “We’re just staying focused and in order to win, you’ve got to think you’re the best. In the locker room, we believe in each other.”
Durant Leads Thunder
The Thunder, who relocated from Seattle in 2008, are in the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1996. Durant tallied 18 points to lead all scorers as the Thunder took a 42-34 halftime lead at Oklahoma City Arena yesterday.
Durant also sparked Oklahoma City’s 14-2 scoring run late in the third quarter, contributing nine points as the fourth-seeded Thunder extended a three-point lead to 66-51. The NBA’s leading scorer, Durant made 13 of 25 shots, while Russell Westbrook had 14 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds.
Mike Conley scored 18 points and Zach Randolph had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Memphis, which was seeking to become the first No. 8 seed to reach the Western Conference finals. The Grizzlies’ seven playoff wins set a record for an eighth-seeded team in the West, bettering the six victories of the 1993-94 Denver Nuggets.
The Western Conference finals start tomorrow in Dallas. The third-seeded Mavericks have been off since May 8, when they completed a four-game sweep of the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.