CHICAGO | Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals resumes Sunday in Chicago. Oh, wait. That's not true.
It only seemed that way after the well-balanced Bulls snapped Miami's 27-game win streak Wednesday night, 101-97, before an hysterical sellout crowd of 23,014 at the United Center.
Four Bulls, led by Luol Deng's 28 points, scored in double figures. Carlos Boozer was a monster inside with 21 points and 17 rebounds, young Jimmy Butler added 17 points and Nate Robinson had 14 off the bench.
"It's crazy, getting a win like that against a quality opponent and ending the streak," Butler said. "It just shows that when we come out ready to play and stay aggressive, we can beat anybody.
"More than anything, it's a win on your home floor and you want to protect that."
LeBron James led Miami (56-15), which hadn't lost since Feb. 1, with 32 points and he wasn't happy with the officiating. He didn't care who knew it.
"I'm not sitting here crying because I play the game at a high level of aggressiveness," James said. "But some of these (defensive) plays were on the borderline of a basketball play or not."
Chris Bosh scored 21 points and Dwyane Wade chipped in 18 for the Heat.
"The last few games, we were hanging on and we weren't getting better," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "When you run up against a team like this one who is very good, they will not let you get away with that.
"Now that (the streak) is over, we have to work on getting back to that point."
The Bulls (39-31) outrebounded Miami 43-31, had a 22-8 advantage on second-chance points and were able to prevail despite having Joakim Noah and Marc Belinelli out with injuries.
Miami scored 24 points off 20 Chicago turnovers and that was reason enough to take the win in stride.
"It is important to lock into getting ready to play and the challenge is to not feel too good about yourself if you do win," Thibodeau was quick to say.
"We have to come back and be ready to do it all over again."
The Bulls led by as many as 13 points the first half in taking a 55-46 lead. It was 69-68, Chicago, after three quarters.
That final period was pivotal as the Bulls forced seven Miami turnovers, converted 9-of-12 free throws, outrebounded the visitors 14-8 and were led by Deng's 12 points.
"Just buckling down and getting stops," Butler said.
"He does that every night," Thibodeau said. "He played a great floor game, played great defense, gave you great effort, and he does that in practice, too.
"The best leadership you have is when a guy does that every day."
Chicago has won two of the three meetings this season.
The streak was secondary to Spoelstra even while the Heat was burning it up throughout the league, averaging 103.5 ppg.
"I know that's not the story line everybody wants to hear, but we've had to deal with so many distractions the last three years and this (streak) was just another one," he said.