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.
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. Game 2 is Wednesday night in Miami.
“We’re not really a flashy team,” Gibson said. “We like to go out and do our job.”
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 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 3-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 3 — 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.
Wade missed a 3-pointer on the next possession, Robinson drove the lane and scored with 45.5 seconds left, and suddenly the Bulls were up 90-86. 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.
Game 1 to the Bulls.
“It’s all about being tough,” said Butler, who played all 48 minutes for the third straight game. “We’re always going to be the underdogs and we take pride in that. Everybody can overlook us, but we feel like we’re good enough to hang with a lot of these teams.”
Ginobili’s 3 in 2nd OT lifts Spurs over Warriors
RAUL DOMINGUEZ,Associated Press
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — All it took was one shot from Manu Ginobili to undo Stephen Curry’s monstrous performance.
Ginobili hit a 3-pointer from the left wing with 1.2 seconds left in the second overtime Monday night to lift the San Antonio Spurs to a 129-127 win over the Golden State Warriors and Curry, who put up 44 points in the opener of the Western Conference semifinals.
Ginobili’s shot and an intense defensive effort in the fourth quarter turned what appeared to be a sure loss by the Spurs into the Warriors’ 30th straight defeat in San Antonio dating to Feb. 14, 1997.
“I think we got too predictable,” said Curry, who was 18 for 35 from the field, 6 for 14 from 3-point range and also had 11 assists.
“Coach (Mark Jackson) was calling the pick-and-rolls that were working all game, but we just didn’t have much movement on the backside. If they know what you’re running, they can funnel you where they want you. It’s tough to make plays. Obviously, when we made shots it seems like it was working.”
Golden State led 92-80 after three quarters but shot just 25 percent (5 for 20) in the fourth.
Ginobili’s winner came 43.7 seconds after he’d launched an ill-advised 3-pointer that appeared to cost the Spurs the game.
“I went from wanting to trade him on the spot to wanting to cook breakfast for him tomorrow morning,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “That’s the truth. When I talk to him and say, ‘Manu,’ he goes, ‘This is what I do.’ That’s what he’s going to tell me. I stopped coaching him a long time ago.”
Ginobili’s 3-pointer capped an improbable comeback for the Spurs, who trailed by 16 with 4 minutes left in regulation before going on an 18-2 run to close the fourth quarter and force overtime.
Golden State trailed by five with 1 minute to go in the second extra period before the Warriors scored six straight points and took a 127-126 lead with 3.9 seconds remaining on Kent Bazemore’s reverse layup — a bucket set up in part by Ginobili’s errant long range attempt with 44.9 seconds left.
“I took a really bad shot,” Ginobili said. “I was on the top of the key. I had no chance whatsoever to make it to the basket. I couldn’t penetrate; I was very tired. (Jarrett) Jack gave me a couple of feet and I thought I could make it.”
On the second attempt, Ginobili launched a high-arcing shot off a cross-court inbound pass from Kawhi Leonard.
“On the last play, it wasn’t for me; they just left me open,” Ginobili said. “I set a screen for (Tony Parker) and they both went with him and left me open on the weak side. When I caught it I just saw Brazemore flying. I just gave it a lot of air and it went in.
“I wasn’t even an option. They told me just go screen and stay far from the play. The play was for Tony or Boris. And they got confused.”
Golden State had one final chance but Jack’s 3-pointer from the top of the key was off.
“We had a heartbreaker in Game 1 of the last series (against Denver),” Curry said. “A last-second layup by Andre Miller. So we’ve been here before. But we know how to come back. We’ve been a resilient team all year. To have an opportunity to go 1-1, we still have a chance to do that.”
Parker scored 28 points to lead San Antonio, while Danny Green added 22, Leonard 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.
“He’s had the flu,” Popovich said. “He’s been sick and he gave it a shot. It became pretty apparent there that he wasn’t going to tell me the truth anymore, so I had to pull the plug myself.”
Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes each had 19 points for Golden State. Jack added 15 and Andrew Bogut had 10 points and 15 rebounds.
The Warriors missed eight of their final nine shots in regulation, including a desperation heave by Curry at the buzzer against several defenders.
“You should (win),” Jackson said. “We’re not the first team to lose a game like this and we will not be the last. That doesn’t mean we’re going to accept it. We’re going to get better. Even down the stretch in the process of losing the lead, we did some things that were good. At the end of the day, they made plays and we didn’t make enough.”
The Spurs slowed Curry early in the fourth quarter, putting the 6-foot-7 Leonard on him. Curry scored only six points in the quarter, helping fuel San Antonio’s rally behind Parker and Leonard. Curry had 22 points in the third, including 14 straight late in the period. Curry’s run gave Golden State a 90-72 lead with 37.5 seconds left in the quarter.
“We just wanted to keep playing and keep competing,” Popovich said. “Try to make stops and try to make some adjustments both personnel wise and defensively to try and get more stops and then stay in attack mode on offense. It worked out. It was anybody’s game for sure.”