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Deng is Bulls' unsung hero in Game 1

TBO.com The Associated Press
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 02:26 AM

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DEERFIELD, Ill. -

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 on Sunday night 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, 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, held to 15 points.

"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 got 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.

MAVERICKS-THUNDER: The Western Conference finals between Dallas and Oklahoma City is filled with contrasts.

Dallas has Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and a bunch of others in their 30s. Oklahoma City is led by Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and a bunch of others in their 20s.

The Mavs will be playing for the first time in nine days. The Thunder are coming off a seven-game series that included a triple-overtime and another that needed an OT.

Whoever wins the series advances to the NBA finals. This will be only the second time since 1998 that someone other than the Lakers or Spurs will represent the West in the title round.

Dallas won the season series 2-1.

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