MIAMI — LeBron James took his MVP trophy from Commissioner David Stern moments before tipoff, hoisted it toward the Miami fans and they responded with deafening cheers.
By night’s end, they were silent.
Yes, those streakbusters from Chicago did it to Miami again.
Nate Robinson scored 27 points, Jimmy Butler added 21 points and a career-high-tying 14 rebounds, and the Bulls beat Miami 93-86 on Monday night in Game 1 of the teams’ Eastern Conference semifinal series.
So the Heat — who trailed in the East semifinals, East finals and NBA Finals last season — are facing another postseason deficit. And in a season where little has gone wrong, adversity has arrived in a big way.
“It’s not going to be pretty but playoffs are ugly,” said Chris Bosh, who was held to nine points on 3 for 10 shooting. “That’s what it’s about. It’s been a little bit too pretty around here, to be honest with you.
“We’re in a situation where dudes are not going to be able to sleep and we’re going to have to give it our all in Game 2 and figure everything out.”
When it comes to facing Miami, the Bulls have plenty figured out.
They snapped Miami’s 27-game winning streak in the regular season — the second-longest in NBA history — and now toppled the champs again, this time ending a run of 12 straight Heat victories overall.
“I’ve played on some tough teams,” Robinson said. “But this one, there’s something a little different, something special about this group.”
A seven-point deficit midway through the fourth wasn’t enough to doom the Bulls, who finished the game on a 10-0 run in the final 1:59. And to think, the Bulls weren’t anywhere near full strength. Kirk Hinrich was out again with a calf injury. Luol Deng isn’t even expected to rejoin the team until Tuesday, after dealing with an illness apparently so severe that a spinal tap — and other tests since — were needed to rule out things like meningitis.
“So proud of my team man, this bed might be good luck after all,” Deng wrote on Twitter after the game, with a photo of him in a hospital bed.
Oh, and Derrick Rose remains sidelined, as he’s been since April 2012.
No problem. The Heat are 41-3 in their last 44 games — with two of those losses to the Bulls, who are now 3-2 against Miami this season.
“I think when you’re facing adversity, you have to be mentally tough,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “But this is just one game. We have to play a lot better in our next one.”
James struggled through a two-point first half before finishing with 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for Miami. Dwyane Wade added 14 for the Heat, who had no one else in double figures, finished shooting 40 percent from the floor and were outrebounded 46-32.
“I’m not stunned,” James said. “This is what the playoffs is all about. We’re going against a really good team.”
Miami was outscored 35-24 in the fourth, something that drew the ire of Heat coach Erik Spoelstra afterward.
“There’s no excuses,” said Spoelstra, whose team had not played in more than a week. “We’re not making any excuses for time off or anything else.”
If anyone could have made excuses, it was Robinson. He needed 10 stitches, five in his lip and five more inside his mouth, to close a nasty cut that came when he dove for a loose ball with James and struck his head on the court late in the first half.
And then not only did he play the whole second half, he scored 24 points in those 24 minutes, including the last seven points that finished the job for Chicago.
“He was born a scorer,” Miami guard Mario Chalmers said.
Joakim Noah scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Bulls, who got 12 from Taj Gibson and 10 from Marco Belinelli.
SPURS 129, WARRIORS 127 (2OT)
SAN ANTONIO — Manu Ginobili’s 3-pointer from the wing with 1.2 seconds left in double overtime lifted the San Antonio Spurs to a thrilling 129-127 victory over the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry’s 44 points in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinals Monday night.
The Spurs trailed by 16 points with 4 minutes left in regulation before going on an 18-2 run to close the fourth quarter and force overtime.
They trailed 127-126 with 3.9 seconds left in the second overtime before Ginobili hit his 3-pointer off a cross-court inbounds pass from Kawhi Leonard.
“It’s only the second one I made all day,” Ginobili said. “Good timing though.”
Golden State had one final chance but Jarrett Jack’s 3-pointer from the top of the key was off. After trailing by so many points late Ginobili wasn’t sure how his team rallied for the improbable victory.
“I have no clue. I really got to watch it to see what happened,” he said. “They started missing shots. Steph was unbelievable in the third quarter.”
Tony Parker scored 28 points to lead San Antonio while Danny Green added 22 points, Leonard had 18 and Ginobili 16.
Tim Duncan finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds in 35 minutes. Duncan, who is battling a stomach bug, left the game with 3 minutes left in regulation and only played the final seconds of each overtime.
Curry had 11 assists and was 18 for 35 from the field and 6 for 14 on 3-pointers for Golden State, which has lost 30 straight in San Antonio dating back to Feb. 14, 1997. Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes each added 19 points, Jarrett Jack had 15 and Andrew Bogut had 10 points and 15 rebounds.
Golden State trailed by five with 1 minute left in the second overtime before the Warriors scored six straight points to take a one-point lead on Kent Bazemore’s reverse layup that gave the Warriors a 127-126 advantage with 3.9 seconds left.
The Warriors missed eight of their final nine shots in regulation, including a desperation heave by Curry at the buzzer against several defenders.
The Spurs slowed Curry early in the fourth quarter by putting the 6-foot-7 Leonard on in the fourth quarter. Curry scored only six points in the fourth quarter, helping fuel San Antonio’s rally behind Parker and Leonard.
Curry had 22 points in the third quarter, including 14 straight late in the period. Curry’s run gave Golden State a 90-72 lead with 37.5 seconds left in the third.
He found his groove after a sluggish first half.
After averaging only 3.3 turnovers in Golden State’s first-round upset of Denver, Curry had four in the first quarter alone while struggling to find his shot.
Curry missed his first two attempts while committing two turnovers and picking up a personal foul before hitting a 19-foot jumper with 6:31 left in the first. He finished 2 for 6 in the first quarter, scoring four points in 12 minutes while primarily being defended by Green.
Curry’s first 3 came did not come until there was 7 minutes left in the first half.
The Warriors had plenty of offense without Curry, though.
Golden State raced to a 28-25 lead in the opening period by outscoring San Antonio 12-2 in the paint.
The Spurs started 1 for 9, with Green’s 3-pointer their only basket in the opening 4 minutes. Parker’s jumper with 7:17 left in the first broke the drought and pulled the Spurs within 11-5.
San Antonio shot 38 percent from the field in the first half, but kept the game close by going 13 for 14 on free throws compared to 5 for 10 by Golden State.
NOTES: Spurs F Tiago Splitter (ankle) missed his second-straight game of the playoffs. Splitter did not miss any games during the regular season due to injury, but sat out the finale to rest. . San Antonio G Nando De Colo was inactive. . Warriors W Brandon Rush (knee) missed the game. . Barnes was 5-years-old the last time Golden State won in San Antonio. . The national anthem was sung by Haley Scarnato, a former American Idol finalist and San Antonio native.MORE IN Sports WireSteve Stricker never felt more alone in front of so many people. Full StoryFOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots have been mediocre in splitting their first two games. Full Story
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