Miami Heat at Chicago Bulls (7.5, 186.5)
Heat lead best-of-seven series 2-1.
The Chicago Bulls badly need victory to maintain a realistic chance of the winning the Eastern Conference semifinal series when they host the Miami Heat in Monday’s Game 4. The Heat have a 2-1 edge in the best-of-seven series and a third straight win would severely hinder Chicago’s attempts at an upset. The fifth-seeded Bulls are playing a physical brand of ball against the top-seeded Heat and figure to again be without starters Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich.
Miami star LeBron James was less than thrilled with Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau calling him a flopper after Game 3 and Thibodeau’s pointed comments about the officiating drew him a $35,000 fine on Sunday. James got mixed up with Chicago’s Nazr Mohammed and was called for a technical foul while Mohammed was ejected for shoving James to the floor. “I play an aggressive game,” James said. “I don’t flop. I’ve never been one of those guys.” Deng (complications from a recent spinal tap) is expected to miss his sixth straight game while Hinrich (calf) will likely sit out for the seventh consecutive game.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT THE HEAT: Center Chris Bosh was a force in Game 3 with 20 points and 19 rebounds after a quiet first two games in which he totaled 22 points and 11 boards. “I try to get behind the defense to get easy baskets, but if I move to the open spot, usually they find me,” Bosh said. “Those are my opportunities to be aggressive. If I’m open, I’m going to shoot or make the extra pass if need be.” Backup guard Norris Cole has been sensational in the series. Cole has made 16-of-20 shots – including all eight of his 3-pointers – while averaging 14.3 points.
ABOUT THE BULLS: Chicago has very little depth with Deng and Hinrich joining guard Derrick Rose (knee) on the sidelines and the situation was a factor in the Game 3 loss. Miami had a 36-8 edge in bench points and four Chicago starters played 42 or more minutes. Forward Jimmy Butler played 48 minutes for the second time in the series and the fourth time in five games. Butler had 21 points and 14 rebounds in Game 1 and said Sunday that the physical play is going to continue. “I feel like that’s what it’s been from the very beginning and I don’t expect it to change,” Butler said. “We’re coming in and we want to be the aggressor.”
* Heat are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games playing on 2 days of rest.
* Bulls are 4-0 ATS in their last four games following a double-digit loss at home.
* Over is 6-1 in Bulls’ last seven overall.
* Over is 5-1 in Heat’s last six Conference Semifinals games.
1. Miami averaged 109.5 points in its two victories after scoring only 86 in the Game 1 loss.
2. James had a series-best 25 points in Game 3 and is averaging 22.7 points and 7.7 assists.
3. Bulls C Joakim Noah has two double-doubles in the series and five over his last seven games.