Obviously, Thursday's last-second loss to Miami was a blow to the Bulls' dreams of finishing strong after the all-star break. They are 5-4 since Jan. 25 with 3 losses by 2 points or less. They could easily have gone 8-1 during that stretch.
But they were outplayed for three quarters by the Heat, so the Bulls were asking for trouble. Miami proved in a 90-77 win over the Bulls back on Dec. 26 that it can deliver some defensive intensity. Beyond that, the Heat made more winning plays on Thursday.
Daequan Cook and Michael Beasley nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to send the Heat ahead 74-60 with 1:37 left in the third quarter, the largest lead of the night. When the Bulls closed within 3 in the fourth, Beasley won a race to a long rebound, then found Dwyane Wade for a layin. With the Bulls down 2 a couple minutes later, Heat guard Mario Chalmers stole an entry pass, which led to another Cook 3-pointer and the Heat was up 83-78 with 5:55 remaining.
After the Bulls finally took the lead at 86-85 with 3:17 left, Miami answered with an 8-0 run, setting up the need for another frantic Bulls comeback. Wade hit 4 of 11 shots in the fourth quarter, but nailed 3 in a row during that 8-point run.
--No way Derrick Rose shouldn't be on the court when the Bulls took possession with 4.7 seconds left. That's plenty of time to set up a drive to the basket. The Bulls made their comeback with three guards on the floor – Rose, Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich – to go with Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah.
Thabo Sefolosha and Luol Deng came in for Gordon and Rose during the late defensive possessions, so Vinny Del Negro decided to leave Sefolosha in to throw the inbounds pass.
After watching the replay, Hinrich was basically unguarded near midcourt, so Thabo had a better option than trying to lob it over Wade to get to Gordon in the corner. If Rose catches a pass from Hinrich at midcourt with 4.7 seconds on the clock, plenty of things could happen.
--On the final defensive possession, it's tough to assign much blame. The Bulls essentially didn't guard Shawn Marion, who threw the entry pass. Thomas drifted back to prevent a lob to Wade, then followed Wade to the perimeter and was ready to clamp on a double-team.
That seemed like a reasonable decision, but Marion saw the opening, sprinted for the basket and Wade found Marion. That's two seasoned veterans making a great play, I'd say.
--Another question I have after that game was why Aaron Gray didn't play. You may recall, Gray had 12 points and 11 rebounds in the Dec. 26 game at Miami. Six-foot-9 Heat center Joel Anthony was basically at Gray's mercy in the post.
Anthony started this game, but played just 10 minutes. Noah, meanwhile, played more than anyone – 43 minutes. He finished with 5 points and 11 rebounds, and might have been more effective with a little more rest.
--Here's an item that got left out of the game story: Miami rookie Michael Beasley hit 9-of-10 shots for 21 points, to go with 7 rebounds. I'd take him in a trade if I were running the Suns.
--Thomas and Noah combined for 10 of the Bulls' 19 turnovers. Thomas had 6, along with 15 points, 8 boards and 2 blocks.
--Miami insiders expect Marion to depart for Toronto next week for Jermaine O'Neal. Just a random thought, I think Memphis would be a great fit for Marion when he becomes a free agent this summer. The Grizz would have some nice athleticism with Marion, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay and much-improved Hakim Warrick. Add a center for point guard and Memphis could easily play big or small. They are one of the few teams with cap room, too.
The Memphis Commercial-Appeal is suggesting the Suns, Heat and Grizzlies have discussed a three-way that would send Stoudemire to Miami and Beasley to Memphis. The Grizzlies don't have any expiring deals of significance, though, since they bought out Antoine Walker, so it's hard to see how that would work.
--Is this true, a TNT analyst suggested during the broadcast that the Suns are asking for Ben Gordon in a Stoudemire trade? There's no chance. Gordon would have to approve a deal and he loses his Bird rights if he gets traded. A trade only makes sense for BG if he goes to a team with cap room. The Suns don't and won't have it.