Chicago, IL (Sports Network) – LeBron James and Dwyane Wade rallied the Heat from a late deficit and carried Miami into the NBA Finals with an 83-80 victory over the Chicago Bulls in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Trailing by 12 with a little over three minutes to play, Wade and James shared the load during a game-altering 16-2 run, which included James putting in a go-ahead jumper with 29.5 seconds remaining.
Derrick Rose had a chance to tie it at the free throw line, but missed his second try at the stripe. Chris Bosh drained two free throws for an 83-80 lead with 16.8 ticks left, and a poor possession led to Rose getting hounded behind the arc and James blocking the league MVP’s three-point attempt at the buzzer.
The dramatic come-from-behind win sets up a rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals, as the Dallas Mavericks wrapped up the Western Conference on Wednesday. Game 1 is set for Tuesday in Miami.
Wade, silent over the first three quarters as he nursed an apparent shoulder injury, poured in 10 of his 21 points in the fourth. James finished with a game-high 28 points — 12 in the fourth — to go with 11 rebounds, and Bosh chipped in 20 and 10, fitting numbers for the vaunted triumvirate.
Rose shot just 9-of-29 for 25 points, while Luol Deng totaled 18 points and seven boards for the top-seeded Bulls, who lost four straight after winning Game 1 by 21 points.
"Everything is on me: turnovers, missed shots, fouls," said a dejected Rose, whose team did not lose more than twice in a row during the regular season. "I just have to learn from it and do better next year…We’re sad we lost, but we’ll take a lot from it."
But the Heat’s lightning-quick comeback started after the teams traded free throws.
"We honestly don’t know what happened. It went so fast," James said. "I want to go back and watch the last four minutes."
Wade, who earned MVP honors in leading the Heat to their only title five years ago, got inside for a pair of buckets to start the rally ahead of James’ three-pointer.
Chicago called timeout in an attempt to halt the momentum, and Rose did as such on the next possession, creating space with a spin-move in the lane and dropping in a one-handed fadeaway.
But just as quickly as he got the United Center crowd back into it, he made a critical mistake by fouling Wade as he was shooting a three.
"I got a little space and Rose hit me on my elbow. That changed the momentum a little bit," Wade said.
Wade made the shot and the ensuing free throw for a one-possession game, 79-76, and James followed Rose’s missed floater with a pull-up three from the left wing, tying the game with 1:01 showing.
The tide kept swinging in Miami’s favor when James picked off a Rose pass to set up his jumper from the top of the key, giving Miami its first lead since there was 3:48 remaining in the first quarter.
With the game on the line late in regulation in Game 4, Rose missed a pair of long jumpers with James guarding him, and Miami pulled out the win in overtime.
Rose opted to drive the right side of the lane this time, and James was called for a foul with 26.7 seconds to go.
Rose, an 86-percent free-throw shooter in the regular season, made the first but had the second rim out. Bosh got the rebound, then made the key free throws prior to Miami’s defense forcing Rose into an impossible shot at the buzzer.
"This was emblematic of everything we’ve been through this year," Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We had to go through the fire again. The majority of the game was not going our way, but we’ve built up a lot of resiliency and we made enough plays down the stretch."
The Bulls went on a 12-1 spurt late in the first quarter to go on top, 22-16. Deng highlighted the run with a dunk over James in transition, and the two traded three-pointers in the final 1:07 of the quarter for a 25-21 contest.
Chicago never trailed in the second, going up as many as 12 when Carlos Boozer hit a jumper at the foul line for a 37-25 lead near the midway point.
The Heat shot 37 percent in the first half to trail, 45-38, at the break, and both teams struggled shooting in the third, making just five field goals each.
Free throws kept Miami in it, though, thanks in part to emotion getting the better of the Bulls. During a late 9-1 Miami run, Boozer was whistled for a flagrant foul for landing an elbow to James’ face and Taj Gibson was handed a technical for visibly objecting a foul called on Joakim Noah.
As a result, Chicago’s 13-point cushion with five minutes left in the quarter dwindled to 62-57 heading to the fourth.
Rose drained a three to open the fourth-quarter scoring, and the 38-year-old Thomas, filling in for the injured Omer Asik, put in a pair of jumpers around a Bosh bucket to push Chicago’s margin to double digits, 69-59.
The Bulls were still ahead by 10 as James went to the line with 4:22 remaining. He hit the first for a 73-64 game, then missed the second to end his streak of 32 consecutive makes at the line.
Dallas won both meetings against Miami in the regular season, but they came before the turn of the calendar year…Miami made 8-of-16 from the field in the fourth quarter after shooting 36 percent over the first three frames…Wade had a game-high nine turnovers…Thomas, playing for the first time since Game 2 of the East semis, chipped in four points and eight rebounds in replacing Asik, who was out with a fractured left fibula…Boozer and Noah were held to five points each…The Bulls led the NBA with a 36-5 home record but lost twice in front of the home crowd in this series…The only other time Miami beat Chicago in their five previous playoff meetings was in the first round of its 2006 title run.