MIAMI – Nate Robinson scored 27 points, Jimmy Butler added 21 points and 14 rebounds while playing every second for the third straight game, and the Chicago Bulls stunned the Miami Heat 93-86 on Monday night to take Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Trailing 86-83 with 2 minutes left, the Bulls scored the final 10 points of the game to beat the Heat once again.
Joakim Noah added 13 points, Taj Gibson had 12 and Marco Belinelli added 10 for Chicago, which snapped a 27-game Miami winning streak during the regular season, and handed the Heat their first loss in their last 13 games in this one.
LeBron James scored 24 points for Miami, which got 14 from Dwyane Wade.
Game 2 is Wednesday night in Miami.
The Bulls were without Derrick Rose, as they’ve been all season. Kirk Hinrich was out again with a calf injury. Luol Deng isn’t expected to rejoin the team until today, after dealing with an illness apparently so severe that a spinal tap – and other tests since – were needed to rule out things like meningitis.
And the group that was left gave the reigning NBA champions more than they could handle.
A pair of three-point plays by James – one of them coming when he just broke through a tackle attempt by Butler and muscled the ball to the rim anyway – gave Miami a 76-69 lead midway through the fourth quarter, the biggest deficit Chicago faced all night.
The Bulls, predictably, were undeterred.
Coming off a Game 7 road win in Brooklyn two nights earlier just to get into a series with Miami, the Bulls just kept grinding.
When Ray Allen made a three-pointer to give Miami an 80-78 lead, Butler came back with one of his own to put the Bulls back on top.
When the Heat went up by three after James made a free throw with 2:22 left, Belinelli connected for three – on a second-effort possession – to knot the game.
Then when Robinson connected on a 20-footer with 1:18 left, the Bulls had the lead and plenty of swagger.
With good reason, too.
Wade missed a three-pointer on the next possession, Robinson drove the lane and scored with 45.5 seconds left, and suddenly the Bulls were up 90-86 – rendered virtually the entire building silent.
James drove against Butler and tried a 12-footer that missed everything, the Bulls got the rebound, Robinson made a free throw to stretch the lead to five and the stunner was complete.
It was a night that started with a celebration and ended with Miami’s arena in silence.
James was honored before the game, with a brief on-court ceremony to commemorate his fourth NBA MVP award.