Chicago Bulls 65, Miami Heat 88--Heat lead series 3-1
On the heels of another dramatic contest ultimately ending in a loss--albeit much closer than the disaster that was Game Two--the Bulls limped into Game Four needing a win; otherwise, Game Five would likely be nothing more than a prolonged death knell for this 2012-13 season.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, Miami jumped out to an early 13-4 lead, as the Bulls started off ice cold, going 2-for-13 from the field. Luol Deng was deemed "active" for the game, the latest stretch of what it means for one to be "active." If Deng could be described as "active," in spite of all the news of his post-spinal tap complications, then those of us who are otherwise healthy are superheroes, according to the relativistic continuum of NBA player health designations.
And yet, despite a first quarter in which the Bulls shot 27% and the Heat shot 59%, they somehow managed to enter the second frame down just 21-15. As we have come to know very well this season, the Bulls have turned the execution of the "awful quarter that ends with being down by only that much" into an art form, insofar as such a thing can be considered art.
Marco Belinelli was called for his third foul early in the second, meaning that Rip Hamilton would enter the game for the first time since his three-minute showing in Game Six against Brooklyn. Whether he was in the "dog house" or not, it has gotten to the point that Hamilton entering the game is just one more sign of the dire times for the Bulls, personnel-wise.
Following a nice extra pass from Nate Robinson on the wing, Hamilton hit an open trey from up top, and on the following possession, Taj Gibson went up strong at the basket, completing a traditional three-point play. In short order, the Bulls had cut the lead, which had ballooned to 13, to seven, and the United Center crowd exhibited its first sign of life.
This ephemeral momentum was quickly snuffed out, as LeBron returned from a brief trip to the bench to send home a theatrical thunderdunk after a Bulls turnover.
Luckily, the Heat were not particularly careful with the ball, committing eight turnovers with several minutes still remaining in the first half. On the other hand, the Bulls were not able to capitalize, and continued to remain down by 7-12 points. Excluding their 6-for-6 mark from the line, the Bulls had produced just 21 points through 21 minutes of play. A point a minute is good if you're Fielding Yost, but isn't necessarily a sustainable basketball strategy (unless you happen to play in the Big Ten).
It was not a well-played half for either team, but a poorly played half for the Bulls is a far different concept than the same from the Heat. As such, the Bulls took an 11-point deficit into the second half. Chicago shot just 27%, scoring at a clip of just 0.79 points per possession.