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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Scorching Bosh steps up game to carry Heat past Bulls

AP

MIAMI — Chris Bosh missed his first three shots, and never worried.

News photo
The King and I: Bulls forward Luol Deng, left, attempts to guard the Heat's LeBron James in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday in Miami. The Heat won 96-85 to take a 2-1 lead in the series. AP PHOTO

He was in rhythm. He was catching the ball where he wanted. And then midway through the first quarter, he finally saw the ball go through the hoop for the first time.

"That was good enough for me," Bosh said.

And more than good enough for the Miami Heat — who are now two wins away from the NBA Finals.

Bosh made 13 of his final 15 shots on the way to a 34-point night, LeBron James finished with 22 points and 10 assists, and the Heat remained unbeaten at home in the postseason by beating the Chicago Bulls 96-85 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday.

The Heat lead the series 2-1, and the blowout Game 1 defeat in Chicago a week ago seems far, far away for Miami.

"There is absolutely nothing easy in this series," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Dwyane Wade added 17 points and nine rebounds for Miami, which is 7-0 at home in the playoffs and handed the team that finished with the NBA's best record its first losing streak since Feb. 5-7. Game 4 is Tuesday in Miami.

Carlos Boozer finished with 26 points and 17 rebounds for Chicago, which had won the first four meetings of the season with Miami. Derrick Rose finished with 20 points, but struggled from the field again, making only 8 of his 19 shots.

The Bulls held James and Wade to a combined 12-of-30 showing from the floor. Against Bosh, they had no answer.

"It's definitely frustrating," Rose said. "Our will wasn't there tonight. They still found a way to win."

Against the NBA's top field-goal percentage defense this season, Miami shot 51 percent and scored 53 points after halftime. Plus, the Heat were 25 of 29 from the foul line, while Chicago was 16 for 21.

"Rebounding was good," Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Challenging their shots wasn't."

That was especially true for one critical stretch of the fourth quarter, when Miami turned a four-point game into one where it had full control. A 9-0 spurt, capped by a three-point play from James with 5:07 left, was all it took to give the Heat an 87-74 edge, and the margin never was less than seven again.

So, meet the leading scorer in the East finals.

It's not Rose, Wade or James. It's Bosh — who took a bit of heat before the series began, when Boozer was quoted saying that Miami has only two great players, a clear nod toward the Heat having a so-called "Big Three."

"I always have respect," Boozer said Sunday night, asked about Bosh's game. "I never didn't have it."

It's mildly ironic that they're going head-to-head, given how last summer went.

The Bulls and Boozer agreed on a five-year deal worth around $80 million, those talks wrapping up almost simultaneously with Bosh — who was a Chicago target last summer as well — deciding to join Miami.

On Sunday, Bosh could have taken a victory lap after the two-great-players comment by Boozer. He declined.

"C-B had it going," James said. "When we have someone going on our team, we continue to go to him."



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