CHICAGO - So much for South Beach style. The Miami Heat showed again it can get down and dirty.
LeBron James came on strong down the stretch to finish with 25 points, Chris Bosh added 20 points and 19 rebounds, and the Heat followed up the most lopsided playoff win in franchise history with a 104-94 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Shaking off a shove to the court that earned Nazr Mohammed an ejection and James an accusation of flopping from Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, the four-time MVP came through down the stretch, scoring 12 in the fourth quarter.
Norris Cole matched his postseason career high with his second straight 18-point performance, and the Heat pulled out a tight win after blasting the Bulls 115-78 on Wednesday.
This time, Chicago refused to go quietly. Put aside the fact that the ailing Luol Deng and injured Kirk Hinrich (calf) remained sidelined, not to mention Derrick Rose, or that Mohammed got ejected in the second quarter for shoving James to the floor.
In the end, it was the Heat grinding out the victory.
"You can't win a championship being pretty and shiny," Bosh said. "You're going to have to get dirty. You're going to have to play physical. You're going to have to dive on the floor. You're going to have to do things that are extremely tough.
"I think people forget just two years ago we were a halfcourt, grind-it-out kind of team that was trying to beat you down. Just because we've moved to more of a free-flowing offense - we're more spread a little bit - that doesn't mean that we are just a run-and-gun team."
The Heat prevailed on a night when James was off target most of the way, hitting just 6 of 17 shots and even getting blocked on a layup by Nate Robinson in the third quarter.
But he and Cole hit two big three-pointers. Bosh perked up after two quiet games, finishing one rebound shy of the club playoff record, and Miami's bench outscored Chicago's 36-8.
"For (Bosh) to have 19 rebounds and for Norris to come off the bench and defend the way he did against Nate and also contribute offensively - a big-time drive in the fourth and a big-time three as well," James said. "Those two guys were the reason we won the game."
Carlos Boozer led Chicago with 21 points. Robinson and Jimmy Butler each scored 17. Joakim Noah added 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Marco Belinelli had 16 points.
The Bulls made it clear early on they were going to put up a fight, and that had nothing to do with all the pushing and shoving. Things reached a boiling point early in the second.
With James dribbling upcourt, Mohammed said he reached in because he wanted to take a foul and stop a potential break. Their arms got tangled. Mohammed fell, and when he got up, he gave James a hard shove to the court.
Both players picked up technicals. Mohammed got tossed with 9:29 left in the half, and that, he said, he didn't deserve. He did, however, point the finger at himself for delivering that shove, but he also insinuated that James flopped.
"I mean you saw the play," Mohammed said, laughing.
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