Before the game got away, the ball did, and Dwyane Wade streaked toward the white shirts in the pricey seats. The attempt didn’t turn out so well, as he saved the ball to the Bulls, and returned to the court with a grimace, gripping his left knee.
“Just some cuts,” Wade said Monday night. “I wish somebody would have grabbed me. That would have been kinda nice, especially at home. But I guess I was coming too fast, so it’s all good.”
It’s not all good for Miami this morning, not after it squandered a late seven-point lead.
It would have been kinda nice to win Game 1, especially at home, rather than letting the battered Bulls grab it.
But in the end, in this 93-86 defeat, the Heat didn’t suffer any sort of traumatic injury.
Just some cuts.
Those cuts should make them feel alive again, after a couple of months in which they were only occasionally challenged, and hardly at all in their first-round walkover against Milwaukee.
Those cuts should make them feel like they’re back in the fight, as several were in 2011, when they dropped the first game in Chicago but rallied to take the next four. Those cuts should get their attention, and you can bet the Bulls will get their best Wednesday.
“We can play better,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We know that.”
They can, they have, and they will.
First, let’s be sure not to shortchange Chicago, which is certainly short-handed enough. The oddest occurrence Monday, even odder than LeBron James shooting free throws the Ray Allen way or Wade wearing a mouthpiece, was seeing the climactic “Hoosiers” locker-room scene on the video screen, as if that were appropriate to rouse the Heat crowd.
It’s the Bulls, in this series, who represent Hickory High — out-manned but not intimidated, underdogs but not overwhelmed.
And, if you thought Norman Dale’s squad lacked depth, look at Chicago. Tom Thibodeau awarded 225 of 240 minutes to just six players, and 134 of a possible 144 to three players (Jimmy Butler, Marco Belinelli, Nate Robinson) who were recently subs.
So the Bulls are who James thought they were, when he expected them to win Game 7 in Brooklyn, even without Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich. Regardless of the obstacles, they remain incredibly, admirably obstinate.
And thus, reasonably dangerous.
After quickly sweeping the Bucks, James got to live a reasonably normal life for a few days, a life that included attending his son’s basketball practices, accompanying them to “Iron Man 3,” even taking them for ice cream.
That enjoyable escape is now officially over.
Still, there’s no cause for panic. Early in the game, the Heat got a lot of the looks they like, even some in the corners that Thibodeau defenses typically erase.
Yet James didn’t score until seven minutes in, and then not again in the first half. Wade didn’t score until nearly a minute later. Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers didn’t connect until the third quarter. Shane Battier and Ray Allen combined to make just 3-of-11 shots from behind the arc.
“A lot of our shots were short,” Wade said.
After a seven-day layoff, that wasn’t especially surprising.
“They were a little rusty,” Chicago’s Joakim Noah said.
And yes, they still had the game in their grip, but let it slip.
That also wasn’t surprising.
With all four games against Milwaukee decided early in the fourth quarter, after the Heat’s three stars sat out numerous games down the stretch, you’d need to go back to Chicago on March 27 — when their winning streak ended — to find the last time that their core group needed to show poise and patience down the stretch.
“We obviously had the ball in the hands of the guys we wanted to have the ball in,” Wade said. “And we obviously didn’t make the plays and we didn’t make the shots that we normally make. So nothing to say there.”
Nothing to see here, other than some cuts.
On to Game 2.