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Miami’s lead in East down to half a game

Boozer’s Bulls stomp hapless Hawks 97-58

Gulf News

Utah: The Miami Heat were unable to complete a furious second half fight-back as the defending NBA champions continued to struggle on the road, falling to a 104-97 loss to the Jazz in Utah on Monday.

LeBron James scored 32 points to help the Heat cut a 21-point deficit to just two when they pulled within 93-91 in the final few minutes, but the Jazz held firm to consign Miami to a third loss in four contests on their six-game road trip.

“The game was too close to be nervous,” Utah big man Al Jefferson told reporters.

“I knew they would make their run, they are too good.”

Gordon Hayward scored seven of his 22 points in the final three minutes, Al Jefferson added 23 and 11 rebounds as Utah (21-19) made sure their early hard work would result in a victory.

After being buried by the home team’s assault through the first three quarters, Miami (24-12) embarked on a 21-5 spurt in the fourth to get back into the game.

Hayward responded with a pair of jump shots down the stretch and the Jazz made free throws as the Heat misfired.

“We can’t dig ourselves a hole,” said James, who moved to within 18 of becoming the youngest NBA player to reach 20,000 career points.

“Low energy against a team like this in their building in front of their amazing crowd - we can’t play with low energy.”

Chris Bosh added 16 and Dwyane Wade scored 11 for Miami, who were also out-rebounded by a comfortable 40-23 margin.

Wade did not play in the fourth quarter with coach Erik Spoelstra opting for an unconventional lineup.

“I don’t know. I just always stay ready,” Wade said.

The loss meant Miami’s Eastern Conference lead was trimmed to just half a game ahead of their trip to Golden State on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Carlos Boozer finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds as the Chicago Bulls set a franchise record for fewest points allowed with a 97-58 rout of the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.

Luol Deng scored 18 points, while Joakim Noah added nine points and 16 rebounds for the Bulls, who have won two of their past three games.

Atlanta’s 20-point first half was just one point shy of the NBA record for fewest points in a half. The Los Angeles Clippers scored just 19 points in 1999.

Mike Scott scored 10 points for the Hawks, who were held to a franchise-record low five points in the second quarter en route to their sixth loss in their past seven contests.

Atlanta led 13-12 with 6:37 left in the first quarter after Kyle Korver knocked down two-of-three at the free throw line, but the Hawks went the next 10 minutes without a field goal, allowing the Bulls to build a sizeable lead.

Chicago closed the first quarter on a 14-2 run to grab an 11-point lead before Atlanta went the first six-plus minutes of the second quarter without a basket.

The Bulls extended their lead to 36-15 just past the midpoint of the frame before Al Horford finally halted the drought with a tip-in basket at the 5:15 mark.

The Hawks managed just one more field goal in the second, allowing Chicago to take a huge 48-20 lead into the break.

Atlanta never threatened in the second half, as the Bulls cruised to victory.