He single-handedly got the Heat off the schneid early with six ferocious open-court buckets that paced the team in the first half. James went 8-for-11 for 16 points in the first half but was quieter after intermission. His huge, game-tying 3-point play with 36.8 seconds left provided high drama, but seconds later, he didn't draw rim when the Heat needed another 3.
He and LeBron wreaked havoc at United Center with one of the most sustained "skirmishes" of the season in the first quarter. Undeterred by the herd of Bulls packing the paint, Wade went into slashing mode. He changed speeds and performed ballet, gliding his way to the hole. He got the call against Derrick Rose for some crucial fourth-quarter possessions -- to mixed results.
We saw the effects of Joakim Noah, who tormented Bosh inside and out. Bosh missed his first eight shots from the field and finished with an unsightly 1-for-18 line -- the worst shooting night in Heat history. He had his opportunities from midrange, but the close-outs came quick and Bosh became tentative. Defensively, he got beat up in the post against Carlos Boozer.
Against a Bulls defense that's tough to penetrate when it sets up in the half court, the Heat took to the racetrack. Miami racked up 20 first-half fast-break points and looked like it might run the Bulls out of the gym. The Bulls made an effort to prevent run-outs after intermission, forcing the Heat into a more controlled game. Miami finished with 34 fast-break points.
The Bulls often labor for their shots and the ball meanders more than it pops, but they're gradually developing a few things that work -- that Rose kickout to Luol Deng in the closing minute, for example. But their formula for victory Thursday night followed the usual blueprint. They won it on the strength of their stifling defense, contesting every action.