Miami 101 Chicago 93
MIAMI — Dwyane Wade was ailing, so LeBron James and Chris Bosh more than picked up the slack.
Then Wade found his groove at the perfect time, and the Miami Heat, the team put together solely to win championships, moved one emotional victory away from the NBA finals.
James scored 35 points, Bosh added 22 and the Heat overcame an early 11-point deficit to beat the Chicago Bulls 101-93 on Tuesday night, taking a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
Game 5 is Thursday in Chicago, when the Heat can wrap up their first finals trip since 2006.
Wade went scoreless for nearly 33 straight minutes, before making a jumper with 2:08 left in overtime to help Miami keep the lead. And after James made a contested jumper with 29 seconds remaining for a six-point lead, Wade soared to block Derrick Rose’s layup from out of almost nowhere on the next Chicago possession.
At long last, it was over.
Bosh scored the first four points of overtime, and the Heat — now 8-0 at home in the playoffs — never trailed in the extra session. James closed it with two free throws with 1.4 seconds left, his 12th and 13th of the night, all without a miss. Bosh was 10 for 11 from the line, and Miami outscored Chicago 32-17 in that department.
The Heat made their final 24 free throws.
Rose scored 23 points for the Bulls, who got 20 apiece from Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer. Chicago has lost three straight games for the first time this season.
But what this game will be remembered for was how the Heat rallied around Wade — then watched him save his best for the very end.
The 2006 NBA finals MVP was in the arena late Monday night, trying to work on some things in one of his customary playoff after-dark sessions.
Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. This seemed like it would be the latter.
Whatever answer he sought, he didn’t find for much of Game 4. Wade made just 5 of 16 shots from the field, lacking his usual lift at the rim. He made a pair of free throws with 1:50 left in the first half for his seventh and eighth points, and didn’t score again until overtime.
Better late than never.
That was just the start for the Heat.
Chicago turned the ball over on its next two possessions, Wade turned the second of those into a layup with 1:01 left for a 95-89 lead, and the Heat soon knew they were one win away from the title round.
Mike Miller scored 12 for Miami.
The fourth quarter was pure theatre, both teams clearly knowing — clearly relishing — the stakes.
Miami scored the first seven points for a 70-69 lead. Chicago took the lead back on a pair of free throws by Rose with 6:34 left, and Miami answered with a four-point possession — two free throws by Bosh after a flagrant foul against Boozer, followed by Miller making a jumper over Rose for a 78-77 edge.
Back and forth from there, with the lead, the momentum, control of the series, all seeming to turn every time the ball crossed midcourt.
Rose had a chance with 28 seconds left, his jumper from the left side hitting the rim and eventually being corralled by Miller. The Heat called time with 23 seconds left, 18 seconds on the shot clock, everyone in the building probably thinking the play would be set up for James.
It was. And it never got a chance for liftoff.
Referee Bennett Salvatore called James for an offensive foul with 8 seconds left, saying Ronnie Brewer beat him to the spot as the two-time MVP tried to back down the right side of the lane.
So instead of winning the game late in regulation, James had to simply try to send it to overtime with defence. He guarded Rose on the final possession before overtime, forcing the Chicago guard into a taking a jumper that fell way short, and off to an extra five minutes they went.
A day after being fined US$50,000 for directing an anti-gay slur at a fan in Game 3, Bulls centre Joakim Noah had six points and 14 rebounds in 45 minutes. And there seemed to be very little, if any, unusual rancour from Miami fans toward Noah.
Chicago’s lead was 46-44 at halftime, after some wild emotional swings — a 19-4 run by the Bulls, followed by a 29-9 spurt for the Heat, then capped by an 18-7 rebuttal by the Bulls to close the second quarter.
Game 2 star Udonis Haslem replaced Bosh with 3:49 left in the opening quarter, and for whatever reason, that was when the Heat began what became a 20-point turnaround over the next 10 minutes. They took a 19-8 deficit and turned it into a 37-28 lead, with Haslem on the floor the entire way.
Chicago grabbed the lead back, thanks to — who else? — the MVP.
Rose was 2 for 11 after getting blocked by James with 5:01 left in the half, and wouldn’t remain quiet much longer. He blew past Mario Chalmers for a dunk with 2:03 left until halftime, then had an even better slam — getting free with a crossover dribble, then elevating past Joel Anthony at the rim — for another three-point play 25 seconds later to put Chicago back on top.
The Heat never led in the third quarter, but Chicago never pulled away.
The Bulls were up by eight and had possession with three minutes left, before Miami scored eight of the game’s next 10 points to make a precarious deficit a bit more manageable and set up the unbelievable final quarter.
NOTES: Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski sat with Heat owner Micky Arison near midcourt. … Wade missed a dunk in the first quarter, the second straight game he’s had a slam attempt blocked by the rim. … The teams combined for 21 turnovers in Game 3. They had 22 by the midpoint of the third quarter on Tuesday night. … Bulls reserve C Omer Asik, who tweaked an ankle in Game 3, logged two minutes on Tuesday, limping noticeably.