LeBron James and the Miami Heat didn’t even give the Chicago Bulls room to breathe, practically squeezing the playoff life out of them to take a commanding lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal.
Another effort like this will seal it.
James scored 27 points and the Heat nearly matched a franchise record for fewest points allowed in a playoff game, pounding the listless and short-handed Bulls 88-65 on Monday night in Chicago to take a 3-1 lead in the series.
“We worked for it,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “I never like to say that things are easy.”
The Heat sure made it look that way, though.
The 65 points allowed were only two more than the all-time postseason low for a Miami opponent, and it was easily the worst offensive performance by a Chicago team in the playoffs.
Never before had the Bulls scored fewer than 69 in a playoff game nor 10 or less in a quarter during the postseason, but both those marks fell on a night when they were dominated on both ends of the floor.
Miami led by 11 at the half and put this one away in the third quarter, outscoring Chicago 17-9 in the period.
Now the Heat will try to wrap up the series at home Wednesday night, taking what they hope will be the next step toward a second straight championship.
James had his usual complete game with eight assists and seven rebounds Monday.
Bosh finished with 14 points after scoring 20 and grabbing 19 rebounds in Game 3, and the Heat won again despite another quiet night from Dwyane Wade (six points), whose right knee was bothering him again. He appeared to aggravate it on a fallaway jumper during the game but was able to return.
“It’s frustrating at times, but you just try to do what you can,” Wade said.
The Heat shot about 49 percent while the Bulls set a franchise playoff low at 25.7 percent. Chicago was particularly bad from the outside, going 2 of 17 from 3-point range.
The Bulls again were missing ailing Luol Deng and injured Kirk Hinrich (calf), and a team that kept finding ways to win despite being short-handed all season simply appeared to run out of steam, even though coach Tom Thibodeau rejected that idea.
“No,” he said. “I think the thing is (the Heat are) a great team. We have to come out with great intensity – but we also have to make shots.”
Carlos Boozer had 14 points and 12 rebounds for his fifth double-double in the postseason but was just 3 of 14 from the field. Jimmy Butler scored 12 and Joakim Noah grabbed nine rebounds, but it was a miserable night for Chicago – particularly Nate Robinson. With Cole and Mario Chalmers harassing him, he missed all 12 of his shots and did not score.
Grizzlies 103, Thunder 97: Tony Allen scored on a driving layup to open overtime and Memphis held off Oklahoma City in Memphis, Tenn., to push the defending Western Conference champions to the edge of elimination.
The Grizzlies shook off a first half in which they couldn’t hit shots and the Thunder seemingly couldn’t miss in building their largest lead in this series at 17 points. But the Grizzlies have yet to lose on their home court this postseason, and they won their third straight overall and seventh in eight games to grab a 3-1 lead in the series.
Game 5 is Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.
The Grizzlies outscored the Thunder 9-3 in overtime.
Kevin Durant scored 27 points but missed all five of his shots in overtime, including a layup in the final seconds.