The Miami Heat routed the undermanned Chicago Bulls 88-65 to move within a victory of a return trip to the National Basketball Association’s Eastern Conference finals.
LeBron James finished with 27 points, seven rebounds and eight assists as the Heat limited the Bulls to the fewest points in a postseason game in franchise history. Chicago’s 25.7 percent shooting was also the lowest for the team and the worst in an NBA playoff game since the New Orleans Hornets shot 24.4 percent against the Heat in 2004.
The defending NBA-champion Heat have a three-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven second-round series and can advance to the Eastern Conference finals with a Game 5 win in Miami tomorrow. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said the Heat have to maintain their intensity at home to advance.
“We have to go in with a mindset to really approach this with desperation and urgency,” Spoelstra told reporters.
The Memphis Grizzlies also opened a 3-1 lead in their Western Conference playoff series with a 103-97 overtime win against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Grizzlies have won three straight games against the top-seeded Thunder and can close out the series with a Game 5 win tomorrow in Oklahoma City.
“This was the most critical game of the series,” said Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph, who had 23 points and 12 rebounds last night at the FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee.
Two years ago, Memphis had been in a similar position -- it held a 2-1 lead over Oklahoma City in the conference semifinals and lost Game 4 by 133-123 in triple overtime. The Thunder went on to win that series in seven games.
“I definitely thought about that,” Randolph said after the Grizzlies fought back from a 17-point deficit in Game 4. “It ran through my mind, but I told the team, ‘Let’s go, we can do this, we came back this far.’ We kept fighting and fighting. It was grit and grind basketball and we overcame it.”
The Bulls, playing without Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng and Derrick Rose, were held under 27 percent shooting for the first time in a playoff game. Hinrich missed his sixth straight game with a bruised calf, Deng was out for the fifth game in a row with an undiagnosed illness, while Rose, a former Most Valuable Player, hasn’t played all season while recovering from knee surgery. Bulls guard Nate Robinson missed all 12 of his shots and was scoreless in 32 minutes of action while Chicago was off target on 15 of 17 3-point attempts.
The Heat opened the game with an 11-2 scoring run and never trailed again. Miami led by 11 points at halftime and limited the Bulls to a franchise playoff-low nine points during the third quarter to extend its advantage to 19.
Carlos Boozer had 14 points and 12 rebounds to lead Chicago, hitting three of 14 shots.
The winner of the Miami-Chicago series advances to the conference finals against the Indiana Pacers or New York Knicks. The Pacers hold a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference matchup and host Game 4 today.
Also tonight, the San Antonio Spurs host the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of their Western Conference series, which is tied at two games apiece.
The Grizzlies moved within a win of reaching the Western Conference finals by outscoring the Thunder 9-3 in overtime.
Mike Conley scored 24 points and Marc Gasol added 23 points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots for Memphis, which trailed by 17 points during the second quarter.
“We just kept battling until we got a win,” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said at a news conference. “I’m glad it didn’t go to three overtimes.”
Kevin Durant had 27 points on 10-of-27 shooting to lead the Thunder, while Kevin Martin had 18 points and Serge Ibaka added 17 points and 14 rebounds.