NBA Playoffs: Miami Heat 4-1 Chicago Bulls

The league MVP helps deliver the knockout blow

The league MVP helps deliver the knockout blow

In a fiery series, a depleted Chicago Bulls side went down fighting as Miami Heat booked a place in the Conference Finals for the 3rd straight year. The defending champions swept the Milwaukee Bucks 4-0 in the first round while Tom Thibodeau’s  battling Bulls edged past Brooklyn Nets 4-3 after a thrilling series which included a triple overtime game 3.

GAME 1: Chicago 93-86 Miami @ American Airlines Arena

Chicago claimed Game 1 on the road after a strong finish helped secure the victory. The visitors outscored Miami 35-24 in the final quarter and closed out the game with the last 10 points despite being without Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich. In their absence, Nate Robinson (27p/9a) continued his fine play-off form while Jimmy Butler (21p/14r) and Joakim Noah (13p/11r) both added valuable double-doubles. LeBron James proved why he won his fourth MVP award with an impressive 24-8-7 performance but was only joined in double figures by Dwyane Wade, who had 14. The teams were tied at 37 at the half before Miami edged ahead at the end of the third on a Shane Battier three. A tense fourth ensued and the home side were leading 86-83 with 2:22 remaining before they were kept scoreless for the rest of the game as Marco Belinelli’s triple sparked a 10-0 close for the win with Robinson adding the final seven points.

Chicago Bulls lead the best-of-7-series 1-0.

GAME 2: Chicago 78-115 Miami @ American Airlines Arena

Everybody expected a response from the reigning champions and Erik Spoelstra’s side duly delivered with a dominant blow-out in a physical encounter. It was an historic post-season performance from Miami as they coasted to their largest margin of victory in a play-off game. Ray Allen led the way for the Heat with 21 points off the bench including a perfect 10-10 from the line. Norris Cole was another strong performer off the bench making 4-4 from 3-point range for 18 points as the hosts had four other players in double-figures as they shot 60% from the field. A total of nine technicals were dished out but Miami were not affected by the physical intensity. James scored all of his 19 points in the first half before turning provider in the second as Miami began to run riot. A run of 11 unanswered points helped them break further clear in the third before a 19-2 start to the fourth made it 104-68- an incredible lead of 46. Both teams emptied their bench at the end for a calm finish to a frosty tussle.

Series tied at 1-1.

GAME 3: Miami 104-94 Chicago @ United Centre

Miami then regained home advantage with a win on the road in a game marred by Nazr Mohammed’s ejection for pushing over the league MVP. LeBron had a 25-8-7 game while Chris Bosh had a huge game performance  with 20 points combined with a career play-off high 19 rebounds. All of Chicago‘s starters posted scores in double figures whilst clocking hefty minutes and the visitors managed to stay with their opponents for the majority of the game. The teams headed into the final quarter tied at 70 but Bosh‘s triple gave Miami a lead they would not relinquish with LeBron and Cole also netting late scores from beyond the arc to keep the Bulls at bay before closing out the game at the free throw line.

Miami lead the best-of-7-series 2-1.

GAME 4: Miami 88-65 Chicago @ United Centre

Chicago squandered the chance to level the series after their worst play-off performance in their franchise history. Miami opened up a double-digit advantage at half-time with James and Bosh combining for 27 points in a 44-33 half. The third quarter saw Miami power on to lead 61-42 on a Cole triple at the buzzer after restricting the Bulls to a nine point quarter. There was no way back for the visitors as they fell to their third straight loss and on the brink of elimination. LeBron led the way with 27-7-8 while Bosh was the only other player in double figures as the scoring was spread out across the roster. Chicago shot a lowly 25% from the field with Robinson going 0-12 while Noah went 1-6 and Carlos Boozer was 3-14.

Miami lead the best-of-7-series 3-1.

GAME 5: Chicago 91-94 Miami @ American Airlines Arena

The close-out game was not as straight forward as expected despite the early indications with Miami making their first seven shots in a 22-4 start. As has been the Chicago way this season, the Bulls battled back and took the lead at 38-36 on a Butler three midway through the second. They maintained the advantage at the half as Robinson sunk a late triple to make it 53-47 with Boozer leading the charge with 19 points. ‘Rip’ Hamilton’s 3-pointer made it a 10 point game in the third before the hosts narrowly reduced the deficit to trail 77-69 after 3Q. Battier scored 8 points early on in the fourth to help Miami regain the lead and there was to be no way back for the Bulls as they were finally down and out. Boozer finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds while LeBron (23-7-8) flirted with a triple-double yet again and Wade added 18 points as he continues to battle with a knee injury. A great effort from Chicago without D Rose, Deng and Hinrich for the entire series as a healthy Miami prove too much in their quest for a third NBA Championship.

Miami won the best-of-7-series 4-1.

                                    Top 5 Players:

  1. LeBron James- 23.6 ppg; 7.0 rpg; 7.8 apg
  2. Jimmy Butler- 15.6 ppg; 6.4 rpg; 44.2 mpg
  3. Chris Bosh- 13.6 ppg; 8.6 rpg; 50% 3PT
  4. Norris Cole- 11.0 ppg; 23.0 mpg; 81.8% 3PT
  5. Carlos Boozer- 15.0 ppg; 8.2 rpg

Game Night! ft. NY Knicks @ OKC Thunder

Melo continues hot streak for Knicks while the Lakers faulter in play-off charge

Carmelo Anthony took his points total to 177 in his last four games with another 36 in New York’s 12th straight victory after beating OKC (56-21) 125-120. The Knicks 50-26) had a productive second quarter to inspire a 50th win this season with JR Smith netting some huge shots late on. Russell Westbrook had an impressive all-round performance for the Thunder with 37-11-8 although Oklahoma missed out on the chance to return to the top of the Western standings.

Knicks‘ centre Tyson Chandler (15pts) was delighted with the win:

“This was huge for us, it’s very hard to come into this building and get a win, I’m really proud of the way we kept fighting”

Serge Ibaka came out firing in the first quarter and had 9 points, 3 rebounds and 4 blocks after the opening 12 minutes as OKC opened up a slender 31-30 advantage. Chris Copeland came off the bench to score 11 points alongside Anthony in a dominant second quarter for the Knicks as they took control to lead 65-56 at the interval. OKC battled back and closed to within a point before Melo struck two triples late in the quarter and New York led 96-89 after three.

The hosts compiled a 13-4 burst in the final quarter capped by a Durant jumper as the Thunder took the lead at 105-104. Jason Kidd responded with his fourth 3-pointer of the game before soon after Westbrook took his tally to 30 points as OKC went up by one with 4:00 left. However, the visitors kept their streak alive with an 11-2 spell over the next three and a half minutes with Smith adding five points in quick succession before Melo sealed the win.

Anthony has now taken over as the leading scorer in the league with an average of 28.4 points per game

The Lakers (40-37) dropped outside of the play-off places after a 109-95 defeat against their LA rivals. CP3 (24pts/12as) and Blake Griffin (24pts/12rbs) both recorded double-doubles as the Clippers (51-26)completed a 4-0 sweep over the Lakers and won the Pacific Division title for the first time. Kobe Bryant did his best to lead his side to victory with 25 points and 10 assists while Dwight Howard matched his points haul in the absence of Steve Nash and Ron Artest.

Utah Jazz (41-37) capitalised on the Lakers’ defeat with a 97-90 win on the road against fellow play-off hopefuls, Golden State (44-33). Mo Williams led the way with 25 points while Steph Curry had 22 points for the Warriors as they missed out on a victory which would have secured their post-season spot. One team, in the West, already in the play-offs are Memphis and the Grizzlies (52-25) ground out a tough 89-87 on the road against Sacramento (27-50) after Marc Gasol (15p-10r) produced a late block to secure the win.

Dallas (38-39) kept alive their fading play-off hopes with a 97-91 victory against Portland (33-44), who launched a late fightback before falling short. The Mavericks were led by Chris Kaman’s double-double of 26 points and 11 rebounds while Will Barton had a 22p-13r double-double for the Trail Blazers, who are already out of post-season contention following EIGHT straight defeats. Anthony Davis led the New Orleans Hornets (27-50) to a 95-92 win in Phoenix (23-54) with a 20 point haul.

Detroit (26-52) snapped an 18-game losing streak against the Chicago Bulls (42-34) with a 99-85 victory despite Carlos Boozer‘s 21p-10r double-double. The Bulls‘ defeat handed the Central Division title to the Indiana Pacers. Cleveland (24-52) used a strong final quarter to defeat Orlando Magic (19-59) 91-85 while the return of Paul Pierce inspired a 107-96 win for Boston (40-37) over the Washington Wizards (29-48).

Game Night! ft. Miami @ Boston

LEBRON LEADS HEAT TO WIN 23; KNICKS SNAP LOSING RUN & LAKERS FALL IN PHOENIX

Miami Heat (52-14) made it 23 straight victories with a 105-103 win on the road against the Boston Celtics (36-20). LeBron James netted the game-winner to reach 37 points, consisting of a huge dunk on Jason Terry whilst being accompanied by 12 assists on the stat-sheet. Jeff Green’s monster 43 point haul proved in vain for the Celtics, who were missing Kevin Garnett, as they saw a 17 point lead wiped out

Meanwhile, their Eastern rivals both recorded wins on the road to close in on clinching their play-off spots. Indiana Pacers (41-26) remain second following a 111-90 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers (22-45) using a strong second quarter as a platform for their triumph. New York (39-26) were without Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire in Utah (34-33 but still prevailed in a 90-83 success. JR Smith took on the responsibility and top scored with 20 points while Gordon Hayward had 17 for the Jazz.

Memphis (45-21) continued their strong run of form with a 92-77 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves (23-42) while there was a 93-72 success for the Golden State Warriors (39-30) over New Orleans (22-46) after a 30 point haul from Stephen Curry. Denver Nuggets (46-22) took their win streak to TWELVE after a 119-118 overtime success against the Chicago Bulls (36-30). Wilson Chandler had a game high 35 points for the visitors while Nate Robinson had 34 for the home side.

The Lakers (36-33) missed out on the chance to leapfrog Houston in the Western conference after a 99-76 defeat in Phoenix against the Suns (23-45). Goran Dragic dished out 10 dimes during the game for the hosts including an assist through-the-legs of Steve Nash, who top scored for the Lakers with 19 points in the absene of Kobe Bryant. Dallas Mavericks (32-35) kept up their play-off hopes with a 127-114 win on the road against Atlanta (37-30) while Brooklyn (39-28) eased to a 119-82 win against Detroit (23-46) on the back of Deron Williams’ 31 points.

Gerald Henderson led the Charlotte Bobcats (15-52) to a 119-114 victory at home to the Washington Wizards (23-43) with a 27 point haul. Philadelphia (26-40) held off a fourth quarter comeback from Portland (31-35) to record their second win in a row after a 101-100 success. LaMarcus Aldridge top scored for the Trail Blazers with 32 points while Damian Lillard continued his great form with an additional 27 but it was Jrue Holiday’s contribution for the 76ers which inspired the victory.

LeBron James with the monster dunk on Jason Terry (NBA):

Game Night! ft. Chicago @ LA Lakers

LAKERS INTO 8TH SPOT; HEAT STREAK AT 18 AND THUNDER CLOSE IN ON SPURS

The Los Angeles Lakers (33-31) moved into the play-off positions courtesy of a 90-81 home win against the Chicago Bulls (35-28) to take their current win streak to three games. Kobe Bryant didn’t replicate the 40+ point performances in his last two outings but still led his side with 19 points and 9 assists while Dwight Howard had a big impact with 21 rebounds complementing 16 points. Chicago have now won just four of their last TEN and face pressure from Atlanta and Boston below them in the Eastern standings as they compete for home advantage. Joakim Noah led the Bulls in this defeat with an 18p/17r double-double although Nate Robinson took the scoring honours with an extra point.

OKC Thunder (47-16) moved to within a game of Western conference leaders, San Antonio, after recording their 5th win in a row after beating the Boston Celtics (34-28) 91-79 in the first game of the NBA double-header on Sky Sports in the UK. Kevin Durant top scored with 23 points as Oklahoma broke clear in the fourth to tie the series at 1-1 with the Celtics, who were led by Paul Pierce’s 20 points.

Miami Heat (47-14) took their franchise-record win streak to 18 games after comfortably defeating conference rivals Indiana Pacers (39-24) 105-90. Chalmers was ‘Super Mario’ for the night with a game-high 26 points with Chris Bosh (24p) and Dwyane Wade (23p/6st) adding valuable support while LeBron James chipped in with 13 points, six rebounds and SEVEN assists on a ‘quiet night’.

LA Clippers (45-20) powered past Detroit (23-42) in a 129-97 victory to reclaim third spot in the Western conference. The home side shot an impressive 62% from the field as Blake Griffin led the way with 22 points and Chris Paul had 20 points and dished out 14 assists. Jose Calderon top scored for the Pistons with an 18 point haul as the visitors fell to a fifth straight loss. Meanwhile Dallas (29-33) handed out a 100-77 beating on the Minnesota Timberwolves (21-39) on the road with Vince Carter leading the Mavericks with 22 points.

Milwaukee Bucks (32-29) maintained 8th spot in the East with a narrow 115-113 win on the road against the Sacramento Kings (22-43). The visitors survived a fourth quarter comeback from the Kings and Monta Ellis (29p) and Brandon Jennings sealed the win from the line. New Orleans (22-43) enjoyed a tense 98-96 win over the Portland Trail Blazers (29-33) with Ryan Andersen securing the victory late on with a three point play.

Despite the absences of Rudy Gay and Andrea Bargnani, the Toronto Raptors (25-39) came through against the Cleveland Cavaliers (21-42) 100-96 although they are 8.5 games behind the play-off spots. Amir Johnson was the star with 17 points and 16 rebounds while the Cavs were left worrying over the injury suffered by Kyrie Irving as he left the game in the third. Orlando Magic (18-46) inflcited a fifth straight loss on the Philadelphia 76ers (23-39) as Jameer Nelson starred with 24 points and 10 assists in the 99-91 home win.

Check-out this top dunk from DeAndre Jordan for the Clippers: (NBA)

Game Night! ft. Orlando @ Miami

NOT QUITE SWEET 16 FOR MIAMI BUT THEY GET THE WIN; LAKERS FIGHT BACK ON KOBE’S 42 WHILE THE KNICKS & SPURS SURVIVE WITHOUT LOSS OF KEY PLAYERS

Miami Heat (45-14) needed a late LeBron James basket to keep their win streak alive after scraping to a 97-96 victory at home to the Orlando Magic (17-45). James top scored with 26 points as a seemingly comfortable victory for Erik Spoelstra‘s side almost turned disastrous after a lax opening to the fourth quarter. Nikola Vucevic led the visitors with an incredible 25 points  and 21 rebounds in his second 20-20 game of the season (both against Miami) while Jameer Nelson added 14 assists to a 16 point haul.

Norris Cole nailed consecutive triples at the start of the second as Miami soon opened up a 55-40 advantage at half-time in complete control. The lead peaked at 19 points at the start of the third but Orlando rallied and hauled themselves to within three points heading into the fourth. Magic took the lead and held a 96-93 advantage with around 90 seconds remaining before Chris Bosh (17pts/10rbs) nailed a pair of free throws and Dwyane Wade (20pts) had a block to leave the game in the hands of the reigning MVP, who duly stepped up with the game winning drive to the hoop.

LA Lakers (31-31) battled back from 25 points down to defeat the New Orleans Hornets (21-41) 108-102 after a 42 point haul from Kobe Bryant. The visitors finished with a 20-0 run to bounce back from their defeat to the OKC Thunder the previous night despite finding themselves trailing 63-38 at one stage in the first half. Dwight Howard impressed with 20 points combined with 15 rebounds while Jodie Meeks stepped up off of the bench with 19 points. Meanwhile their rivals, the LA Clippers (44-19) enjoyed a 117-101 win at home to the Milwaukee Bucks (30-29) after Blake Griffin powered his way to a triple-double of 23 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high 11 assists.

STAT: Kobe tied his season-high points haul with his 5th 40+ performance of the campaign.

San Antonio (48-14) overturned a first half deficit to defeat the Chicago Bulls (34-27) 101-83 as the Spurs made it two wins out of two in the absence of Tony Parker.  Manu Ginobili led the Spurs with 18 points, a feat that was matched by Tim Duncan who added 10 rebounds and five blocked shots to his stat-line. Marco Belinelli led the Bulls with a game-high 21 points while Joakim Noah pulled down 13 rebounds. Chicago led by as many as 14 in the first half but the visitors were unable to keep up with the hosts in the second and San Antonio steadily began to pull away with Tiago Splitter, Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills all contributing points in double figures.

New York (37-21) survived a third quarter blip to see off the Detroit Pistons (23-40) 87-77 as they coped without the missing Carmelo Anthony. Amar’e Stoudemire and JR Smith combined for 42 points off the bench while Ray Felton had a game-high 26 points. The hosts had led by ten points by the end of the third quarter with Jose Calderon the orchestrator before finishing with SIXTEEN assists. In another all-Eastern clash, Boston (23-27) used a strong fourth quarter to overcome the Indiana Pacers (38-23) 83-81 on the road. Kevin Garnett had an 18-10 double-double for the visitors whilst providing the game winning assist in the dying seconds for Jeff Green to clinch the victory.

Memphis (40-19) became the fifth team in the West to record 40 wins on the season after a hard-fought 91-85 success against the Portland Trail Blazers (28-32). Marc Gasol had a game-high 23 points along with 12 rebounds to lead the Grizzlies to their NINTH win in their last ten, in the absence of All-Star Zach RandolphDallas (27-33) kept their alive their previously fading play-off hopes with a 112-108 home win over the Houston Rockets (33-29) who will now be looking over their shoulder at the chasing pack. The Mavericks jumped out to an early advantage and survived a late surge from the Rockets, who were fueled by James Harden‘s 28 points and 9 assists.

STAT: League rookie, Damian Lillard scored 20+ points in a game for the 30th time this season.

Cleveland (21-40) were another team to fight back from a significant deficit as they defeated the Utah Jazz (32-29) 104-101 after Kyrie Irving led the way with 20 points and 10 assists. Toronto Raptors (24-38) enjoyed a comfortable 98-71 win against the Phoenix Suns (21-40) while the Brooklyn Nets (35-26) recovered from a slow start to impose a defensive stranglehold on the Charlotte Bobcats (13-48) to come away with a 98-78 win. Joe Johnson led the way with 22 points as the Nets outscored their opponents 56-25 in the second half.

STAT: It was only Irving‘s third double-double of the season for the Cavs.

Golden State (35-27) used a strong third quarter display as a platform for their 87-83 win against the Sacramento Kings (21-42) as Klay Thompson nailed a crucial 3-pointer late on to finish with 20 points.  Atlanta (34-26) survived a fourth quarter resistance from the Philadelphia 76ers (23-37) to win 107-96 after 27 points and 11 assists from Jeff Teague. Minnesota Timberwolves (21-37) were led by Derrick Williams (16pts/8rbs) and Ricky Rubio (15pts/11as/7rbs/6st) as they held on to an 87-82 home win against the Washington Wizards (19-40), who were led by John Wall‘s 19 points.

Check-out the amazing play of the day as Jamal Crawford provides the fancy alley-oop for Blake Griffin to jam home: (NBA)