Miami Heat overcome Bulls in battle of the East

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(REUTERS) – MIAMI, – LeBron James scored 35 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Miami Heat beat the Chicago Bulls 97-93 in a thrilling duel between the top two teams in the Eastern Conference on Sunday. Chicago’s Derrick Rose, the league’s Most Valuable Player, finished with 34 points and produced some beautiful basketball but he will regret his failure at the foul line in the final minute.
With the Heat ahead, 94-93, Rose, whose elegant play had drawn applause from even the home crowd, missed two free throws only for James to do the same at the other end as the two key protagonists in the game somehow lost their aim when it mattered most.
Rose had gone into the game not having missed a fourth quarter free throw this season, with 26 of 26.
Adding to the theatre, James, the MVP in 2010, had taken on the role of defending Rose in the final minutes and did so effectively in what was a fascinating element of the contest.
James, who rode to the game on a bicycle to beat traffic disruption caused by the Miami Marathon, scored over 30 points for the third consecutive game and a league-best 11th time this season.
The Heat led through all quarters but the Bulls never let them break away and had the edge at one time in the second half by a point.
“I am sure everyone watching at home got their money’s worth today,” said Miami’s Chris Bosh, who sealed the win with two free throws.
“Every time we play the Bulls it’s going to be like that … we don’t expect any blowouts and they are all probably going to come down to the last couple of possessions.
“They are a great team and we are going to see them many, many times this year,” added Bosh.
The late drama was fitting for an encounter that had the edge of a playoff game and could well be the appetiser for a post-season series between the two teams.
There is clearly little love lost between the two teams and the aggression levels were well-above the regular season norm.
“You get into a game like this in the trenches, at the line of scrimmage and both sides going like this, you will get some skirmishes,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
Miami’s route to victory was helped by James winning a jump-ball after a controversial call from the referees, who blew “an inadvertent whistle”.
The cool head of Bosh, who made his two free throws, was key to what was a repeat of last season’s Eastern Conference championship game.
Bosh finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds for Miami but Dwyane Wade, in his second game back after a six-game injury absence, was only four of 16 on shooting as he scored 15 points.
The win was the fourth consecutive and seventh in eight games for the Heat who are now just one game behind the Bulls in the East.