The play of CJ Watson off the bench clinched the Central Division crown for Chicago as they beat the Miami Heat in overtime, 96-86.
Thursday night's Bulls/Heat game should go down as one of the most thrilling contests played in the NBA this season. It was a back-and-forth affair that literally came down to the last shot as Chicago sat on the brink of losing at home to their rival.
The Bulls and Heat are not only two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, but also in the NBA. Last night's win not only clinches the Central Division for the home team for the second consecutive year, it puts the No. 1 seed in the East pretty much out of reach for Miami.
How was Chicago able to beat the Heat? Let's take a look:
The Bench Mob
Chicago's second unit is a vastly improved bunch over last season and just might be the best set of reserves in the League. The Bulls bench outscored Miami's 47-7 and no, that's not a typo. You're not going to lose many games in the NBA when you get almost 50 points in offensive production from your bench.
Korver has seemed to get his shooting stroke back, the one that made him one of the most feared marksmen in the NBA a few years ago. Korver was 6-8 from the field and 5-6 from behind the 3-point line to score 17 points in almost 19 minutes of action last night. After struggling with his shot last season, Kyle seems to have finally gotten his swagger back and Chicago is going to need his hot shooting to continue on through the regular season and into the Playoffs.
The box score doesn't do justice to how important Omer was in last night's game. He all but made Joakim Noah, Chicago's loquacious big man, expendable. Noah played just under 7 minutes in the 3rd quarter, logged no minutes in the 4th quarter and played just 21 seconds in overtime, all because of Asik's presence in the paint (2 blocks) and on the glass (8 rebounds). Fans may not remember how huge Chicago's Turkish big man came up in this game, but Miami sure will.
Derrick Rose returned to the starting lineup and gave the Bulls next to nothing. He was 1-13 from the field and scored just 2 points, a career low. Tom Thibodeau all but benched his All-Star point guard in favor of Watson who played superbly. Watson was solid, scoring 16 points and dishing out 9 assists off the bench. But his huge 3-pointer over Dwyane Wade with 2.2 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime was the biggest shot of the night and the one that buried Miami.