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LeBron struggles, so do Heat

LeBron struggles, so do Heat

May 15th, 2011 by RICK GANO, AP Sports Writer in News

Miami Heat's LeBron James, left, looks to the basket as Chicago Bulls' Luol Deng defends during the second quarter in Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals basketball series Sunday, May 15, 2011 in Chicago.

Photo by The Associated Press /News Tribune.

CHICAGO (AP) - LeBron James had trouble sleeping the night before the opener of the Eastern Conference finals because he was so excited about the opportunity ahead. Maybe he was a little tired Sunday night.

Now the Miami Heat star will likely have more restless nights ahead before Game 2 on Wednesday night.

James picked up two first-quarter fouls, had an off-night offensively shooting just 5-for-15, and the Heat's defense became unglued in the second half Sunday night as the Bulls took control in a 103-82 victory.

James, averaging 26.1 points in the playoffs so far, finished with 15 - only five in the second half.

Chicago native Dwyane Wade had 18, eight under his playoff average, while shooting 7-for-17.

If not for Chris Bosh, the other member of Miami's heralded Big Three, the game could have gotten away earlier in the deafening roar of the United Center. Bosh had 30 points.

Miami's starters watched the final two minutes of the blowout from the bench, not the start they could ever have envisioned. The Heat, who were 0-3 against the Bulls in the regular season, finished with 16 turnovers, four apiece by James and Wade.

James managed only two points in the third quarter when the Bulls pulled out to a nine-point lead. He was guarded all night by Luol Deng and had trouble shaking the Bulls' 6-foot-9 defender.

In the third period, he lost one ball near the Bulls bench and seconds later tried to take Taj Gibson one-on-one to the basket, only to have his shot deflected.

With the final possession of the third quarter, James put up a 3-pointer that wasn't close. His 3-pointer early in the fourth got the Heat to within eight but then the Bulls pulled away and James didn't score again.

The Bulls reserves seemingly wore the Heat down in the final period and Ronnie Brewer's empathic dunk over Bosh made it a 14-point game.

With an astonished "Who me?" look James was called for his second foul later in the opening quarter after a scramble for a rebound that saw Chicago's Gibson wind up on the floor. There was only 1:07 left in the quarter when James, with four points, headed to the bench with the Heat ahead by four.

In the opening moments of the game, James had a block, a steal, a dunk, a rebound and an assist as the Heat came out - and as promised - withstood the early din at the United Center.

But the decibel level got cranked in the opening minutes of the second quarter when Gibson went over Wade with an emphatic dunk that turned into a three-point tying the game.

Bulls fans are unforgiving of the three Heat stars, all of whom got a recruiting pitch from Chicago last summer before heading south. And they were booed at every turn, especially James and Wade.

Bosh had back-to-back dunks late in the first half, when he finished with 17 points. But he carelessly picked up his third foul near midcourt trying to get the ball away from Deng with 20 seconds to go in the half.