Thursday, May 26, 2011

Miami Heat closes out Chicago Bulls, advances to NBA Finals

The Heat won the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday at United Center with a hard-fought 83-80 victory against the Chicago Bulls. Miami now plays an old foe, the Mavs, in the NBA Finals, which will begin Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Heat beat the Bulls 4-1 in the best-of-7 series with a wild comeback on Thursday that lifted Miami to its first NBA Finals since breaking Dallas’ hearts in six games in 2006. The Heat broke the hearts of thousands in Chicago on Thursday.

The United Center crowd was deflated with 25 seconds left when Bulls guard Derrick Rose, the youngest MVP in NBA history, missed the second of two free throws to tie the score at 81. The Heat trailed by nine with less than three minutes to play but rallied with an amazing 16-2 run that ended with a midrange jumper by LeBron James with 29.5 seconds left. Heat forward Chris Bosh made a pair of free throws with 16.8 seconds left, and James blocked Rose’s desperation three-point attempt to tie the score at the buzzer. James and Haslem, who doubled-teamed Rose at the end of the game, immediately hugged after capping the unlikely finish. For the majority of Thursday’s Game 5, the Heat played some of its worst basketball of the season. Wade played poorly for three quarters but came alive at the end. The performance was similar to his effort in Game 4 when he failed to score in the second half but was key in overtime. Wade favored his left shoulder throughout the game and received treatment on it during the third quarter. He finished with 21 points on 6-of-13 shooting. He looked in mint condition with the game on the line, though. His four-point play with 1:30 cut the Bulls lead to three points. Wade’s brilliance was sandwiched by a pair of three-pointers by LeBron James. His second three tied the game at 79 with 1:01 left. His midrange jumper gave the Heat the lead for good. James finished with a game-high 28 points on 8-of-19 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds and six assists. Chris Bosh, whose two free throws gave the Heat an 83-81 lead with 16.8 second left, finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds. The United Center was a cauldron of noise with 3:53 left in the fourth quarter on Thursday after Ronnie Brewer’s three-pointer to give the Bulls a nine-point lead but was silent in the final moments as the Heat took a moment to celebrate before refocusing for the finals. Wade was benched midway through the third quarter after committing his ninth turnover of the game. He started the fourth quarter on the bench with a team trainer stretching Wade’s left shoulder. His nine turnovers in less than three quarters tied a Heat postseason record. Wade entered the fourth quarter after a timeout with 10 minutes to play. His mid-range jumper from the wing cut the Bulls’ lead to 69-63 with 7:20 left. It was the Heat’s second field goal of the quarter and just its eighth of the second half. The Heat shot 33.3 percent in the third quarter but managed to outscore Chicago 19-17. The third quarter highlighted the physical nature of the series. Carlos Boozer clotheslined LeBron James during the period and whistled for a flagrant foul. The Bulls shot just 23.8 percent in the period but managed to hold onto his lead with an inspired defensive effort. Wade was called for a rare traveling violation with 6:20 left in the first half. The turnover was the Heat’s fifth of the first half and led to a mid-range jumper from Carlos Boozer that gave Miami a 12-point lead. On the Heat’s next possession, Wade again was whistled for traveling. The back-to-back turnovers highlighted a first half were the concentration that gave the Het a 3-1 lead in the series was suddenly lacking. Wade finished the first half with six turnovers. Overall, the Heat had eight turnovers compared to just six assists and was out-rebounded by the Bulls 23-14. The Bulls built a seven-point lead in the first quarter behind 19 combined points from Derrick Rose and Luol Deng. Deng’s three-pointer with a minute left in the period put Chicago ahead 25-18 but James answered with a three-pointer to end the quarter. Chicago shot 47.8 percent from the floor to begin the game while holding the Heat to 7-of-18 shooting from the field.

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