DEERFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Chicago Bulls saw it all year from Luol Deng, so what he did against LeBron James and the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals hardly shocked them.
Hit big shots? Hit the boards? Limit the game's most talented player? Check, check and huge check.
The Bulls lead the Heat 1-0 after a 103-82 victory Sunday, and a big reason for that is Deng. All he did was score 21 points, grab seven rebounds and contribute four steals while neutralizing James in an all-around performance that helped lift Chicago to an impressive victory.
Yes, Derrick Rose was up to his usual MVP tricks, scoring 28 points, but it was Deng providing a big assist whether he was scoring or clamping down on The King.
"That's Luol Deng," Chicago's Carlos Boozer said. "He's an unsung hero for us. He should have been an All-Star this season. It's a normal game for Lu. He plays most of the other teams' best player - or second-best player, whatever the case may be. He scores for us, hits big shots in the clutch for us, rebounds the ball, is a great leader out there, always inspiring us. Luol needs to get more love."
If he keeps this up, that won't be a problem. Game 2 is Wednesday at the United Center, but the Bulls are certainly not writing off Miami.
"They've lost big games and come out aggressive the next day," Deng said.
It might help if the Heat moved the ball rather than try to beat the Bulls off the dribble, an approach that did not work. They also were hammered on the glass, with Chicago outrebounding them 45-33 and outscoring them 31-8 on second-chance points.
Now, they're in a hole.
Their chances certainly would be better if James performed like he is capable. He scored just 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting. Whether it was Deng sticking to him or the big men helping out, he simply had no room to operate and was basically a non-factor.
Deng is also a big reason why the Bulls led the league with 62 wins and matched their best record since the 1997-98 championship season.