Serenaded with chants of MVP, Derrick Rose poured in a game high 34 points leading the Chicago Bulls to a 99-96 win over the Miami Heat on Saturday, as LeBron James sat out a second straight game.
Sidelined with an ankle injury, James watched in street clothes from the end of the Miami bench as Kyle Korver nailed a key three-pointer with 25 seconds to play as the Heat slumped to a third consecutive defeat.
This is a tough one, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters. On the road, this the kind of game you want.
You have a chance to win, we had a chance at the end but they outplayed us in the effort areas.
Chicago native Dwyane Wade stepped up in James's absence hitting 33 points, including three consecutive three-pointers in the fourth quarter, but missed a jump shot at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime.
Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng each contributed 12 points to the victory as the Bulls improved their home record to 18-3 and widened their lead at the top of the Eastern Conference's Central division.
The game provided a superb curtain-raiser for a big sporting weekend in the Windy City with the Chicago Bears set to face the Seattle Seahawks in an NFL playoff clash on Sunday.
A capacity crowd of 23,072 packed the United Center to watch James make his first visit to Chicago in a Miami uniform but unless they arrived early would have missed seeing the twice MVP on court.
James participated in the pre-game warm-up but had still not recovered enough from the ankle injury he sustained on Wednesday in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
There was more bad news for the Heat, who saw Chris Bosh crumble to the court in the third quarter. He was taken for X-rays, Spoelstra later describing the injury as a sprained ankle.
HEAT CATCH FIRE
The Bulls had been heavily involved in the James summer sweepstakes before he decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and take his talents to South Beach.
Chicago also made a big pitch for Bosh and attempted to lure Wade back to Chicago.
All three rejected Chicago's overtures but the Bulls have got on just fine without James and company, running away with the Central Division.
James and Wade were booed during pre-game introductions but the frosty reception is nothing new for Heat trio, who have faced jeers everywhere they have played.
Chicago charged to a 28-19 first quarter and led by 13 midway through the second before the Heat caught fire, erasing the deficit and taking a 53-48 advantage into the intermission with the help of 21 points from Wade.
But the Bulls were again quick out of the gate going on a 17-0 run to open the second half to retake the lead 65-53.
The Heat clawed their way back once again, Bosh leading the rally with 11 of his 17 points as Miami trimmed the Chicago advantage to 73-70 going into the final quarter.
We just wanted to let them know that it's going to be hard, said Rose. We made it tough for them.