Pro basketball

Bulls clamp down on NBA champion Heat

2014-03-09T18:15:00Z 2014-03-10T18:06:29Z Bulls clamp down on NBA champion HeatAl Hamnik al.hamnik@nwi.com, (219) 933-4154 nwitimes.com
March 09, 2014 6:15 pm  • 

CHICAGO | If the Bulls and Miami Heat met, let's say on a New York playground, there would be more bodies flying than points scored.

These are not Facebook friends.

On Sunday, before a national TV audience, the defending NBA champion Heat blew a 12-point fourth quarter lead and lost to the Bulls in overtime, 95-88, adding more vitriol to this bitter Eastern Conference rivalry.

"It felt great. This is what you play basketball for," said Joakim Noah, Miami's main menace with his 20 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and five blocked shots. "I love it. I'm having a blast out there. Beating Miami is always special. I don't care if it's regular season.

"We played with an awful lot of hate today. A lot of hate."

The Bulls (35-28) handed Miami (43-17) its third straight loss and forced OT when Jimmy Butler stripped a driving LeBron James late in regulation.

"Heart. We just played incredibly hard," Butler said.

"I'm proud of my teammates. That's what it's all about — competing — and I feel we're competing," said Noah, whose joyful tennis father, Yannick, was among the delirious United Center sellout of 22,028.

"We didn't let down," Noah said. "That's the great thing about our team. A lot of other teams, when they get hit in the mouth, let down.

"Jimmy was a warrior tonight. He can do so many things on the basketball court to affect winning. You need guys like that.

"Taj (Gibson) wasn't feeling well today but made big play after big play. Another warrior."

D.J. Augustin's 22 points off the bench led the Bulls. He also extended a free-throw streak that includes 25 straight and 60 of his last 61.

Butler added 16 points and 11 rebounds. Gibson grabbed 10.

"We're a hungry group," Noah said. "That's all I want, for everyone in this locker room who wears a Bulls jersey to know we're going for one thing and that's a championship.

"One day, I want to party in Chicago and see what that feels like."

Miami's stars cooled off as the game wore on.

Dwyane Wade had 25 points, but only eight after halftime. James was held to 17 and didn't attempt a free throw for the first time in 332 games. Chris Bosh got nine of his 15 points in the second half.

"You got two teams goin' at it. They got what we want. They got a championship," Gibson said.

"I didn't know if I was gonna play today after having the flu. But whatever I could do to help my team win, I was gonna do. It was tough. I really wanted to just go in the back and faint."

Gibson called Noah "dominant" in setting the tempo for teammates.

"He was talkin' trash to 'em all night," Gibson marveled. "He was in their ear the whole night, letting it be known he was goin' after every rebound and trying to score every chance he gets.

"He was tellin' 'em everything he was gonna do and I could see it on their faces. He was frustrating 'em. He's our leader and he led us to this win."

The series is now at 2-2 this season. More importantly, the Bulls have won seven of the last eight regular-season meetings at the UC.

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