CHICAGO — The Chicago Bulls held LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in check. They failed to keep track of Chris Bosh, and he made them pay for it.
Carlos Boozer scored 21 points to lead a balanced performance by Chicago, but Bosh had 20 points and 19 rebounds to power the Miami Heat to a 104-94 victory in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Friday night.
James made a clutch 3-pointer with 2½ minutes remaining and finished with 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists as Miami reclaimed home-court advantage while taking a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 is Monday night in Chicago.
The Bulls had all five starters score in double figures but hurt themselves by going 17 for 25 from the free-throw line. Jimmy Butler scored 17 points, Marco Belinelli had 16 and Joakim Noah finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Boozer made a free throw with 4:14 left to trim Miami's lead to 85-83, but Norris Cole responded with a layup for the Heat and Bosh made three foul shots. James' 3-pointer extended the advantage to 93-86 with 2:35 remaining, and Cole also had a big 3 down the stretch.
Cole led a strong performance for Miami's reserves, who outscored their counterparts 36-8. Cole had 18 points, and Shane Battier finished with nine.
The Bulls and Heat returned to the court for the first time since Miami's 115-78 victory on Wednesday night, but the day off and change of scenery had no effect on the increasingly feisty tone of the series. Game 2 featured nine technical fouls, two ejections and one flagrant foul, and they picked up right where they left off in that one.
The first technical of the night went to Noah, who pushed Chris Andersen off Nate Robinson after the diminutive point guard was knocked down on a drive late in the first quarter. Andersen tried to kick Noah as he pulled Robinson away and both teams converged on the scene.
But that little mishap was nothing compared to an ugly sequence that started when James was fouled by reserve Nazr Mohammed near midcourt with 9:29 left in the first half. James was hit with a technical after he shrugged off the lumbering center, who got up and pushed the NBA MVP to the ground. Taj Gibson and Andersen then got tangled up in the resulting skirmish while coaches Tom Thibodeau of the Bulls and Erik Spoelstra of the Heat came onto the court to try to restore order.
Mohammed was ejected for the shove, a minor nuisance for a Bulls team already missing Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and Derrick Rose due to injuries. Thibodeau threw his hands up in disgust after the referees' decision was announced.
The Bulls seemed to feed off the turmoil for a bit. Belinelli hit a big 3-pointer and Noah converted a three-point play as Chicago opened a 37-30 lead with 8:03 left in the first half.
James was quiet at the start, working to get his teammates involved while contributing on the glass. He began to look for his shot right before halftime and made four straight free throws to help the Heat to a 52-50 lead at the break.
Bosh had 10 points and 10 rebounds at intermission, while Boozer had 14 points for Chicago.
KNICKS: Coach Mike Woodson believes Amar’e Stoudemire can help his team win tonight in Indianapolis, so he’s not keeping him on the bench for Game 3 against the Pacers.
Instead, Woodson is gambling he can bring back a potentially big scorer without messing up the team chemistry. After missing two months following surgery on his right knee, Stoudemire is expected to play 10 to 15 minutes.
“It’s my job to weigh things out in terms of what he’s looking like when he’s on the floor,” Woodson said. “I’m not going to risk what we’ve been doing, but I am going to play him just to see where he is.”
Woodson said Stoudemire had a “light day” in practice Friday after going four-on-four with teammates on Thursday. The power forward will be re-evaluated today.
76ERS: A person familiar with the decision tells The Associated Press that Philadelphia has hired Sam Hinkie as team president and general manager.
Hinkie, a former Houston Rockets assistant general manager, was the top choice by owner Joshua Harris to oversee the rebuilding of the beleaguered franchise.
TIMBERWOLVES: Waived guard Brandon Roy, likely bringing an end to an All-Star career that was shortened by knee problems.
Roy retired before last season because of knee issues, then attempted a comeback with Minnesota this season after going through a procedure that gave him hope that the chronic pain in his knees would be reduced.
But after a promising training camp, Roy’s knee issues returned early in the regular season. He played just five games.
KINGS: Chris Hansen has increased his total valuation of the Sacramento Kings from $550 million to $625 million in another attempt to sway NBA owners to allow him to buy the franchise and move it to Seattle.
COURTS: A federal judge in California has ruled an auction house cannot sell, destroy or otherwise dispose of Kobe Bryant memorabilia offered by the NBA star’s mother while courts sort out where the case should be decided.