MIAMI — Knowing his team needed him at his best, Dwyane Wade retreated to the Miami Heat locker room after the third quarter for some quick treatment on his aching right knee.
When he came back, he was good as new.
And now he can rest until the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James scored 23 points, Wade added 18 and had a brilliant 45-second sequence that proved crucial, and the Heat clawed back from an 11-point second-half deficit to beat the Chicago Bulls 94-91 on Wednesday night and close out their second-round series in five games.
“We gave it everything we had,” James said. “I have no energy left.”
The Heat outscored Chicago 25-14 in the fourth quarter to escape and advance.
“I knew the fourth quarter was going to be tough so I wanted to re-tape my knee,” said Wade, who has been battling bone bruises on his knee for several weeks. “I knew I was going to come back into a grind. Our trainers did a great job of getting it taped it enough so I could come out and play.”
Did they ever. Wade had a blocked shot, defensive rebound, offensive rebound and putback slam — all in a late 45-second span — to help cap a wild night of wild comebacks. The Heat blew an early 18-point lead, then pulled off a late rally to finish off the depleted Bulls, who still had two chances on their last possession to force overtime. But Nate Robinson and Jimmy Butler missed 3-pointers, time expired, and Miami moved on to face Indiana or New York next week.
“Dwyane is uncanny,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “When the competition is at its highest, and its fiercest, he finds a way.”
Carlos Boozer finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds for the Bulls, who were without Derrick Rose for the 99th straight game, as well as Kirk Hinrich (calf) and Luol Deng (illness). Robinson scored 21 points, Butler had 19, and Richard Hamilton 15 for the Bulls, who dropped the final four games of the series.
“Obviously we’re disappointed in losing the series,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “But I was never disappointed in our team. I thought our team fought hard all year long. There was no quit in them.”
True — all the way to the end.
A team that played without the 2011 NBA MVP in Rose, and dealt with a slew of other issues along the way, was within a couple shots from forcing the reigning champions to fly back to Chicago for a Game 6 on Friday night.
“We’ve got warriors here,” Boozer said. “If we’re healthy next season, we’re going to be pretty good.”
The Heat say they have more than a few of those warrior-types as well, including Wade, who said privately before the game that he was amused about constant speculation surrounding his knee — which has been banged up for weeks.
When the stakes were highest Wednesday, he was there for the Heat.
“I’ll go on and on about how great he is,” James said. “I really don’t care for the trash talk that he receives.”
When it was finally over, the Heat lingered on the court in celebration. Wade held on to the game ball as he shook a few fans’ hands, and he, James and Bosh exchanged some high-fives.