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Friday, May 20, 2011

LeBron's late surge powers Heat by Bulls


CHICAGO — Back to his usual havoc-wreaking ways, LeBron James took control when it counted and the Miami Heat sent out a loud message in the process.

News photo
Statement victory: Cleveland's LeBron James tries to maneuver around Chicago's Luol Deng in the second quarter of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Wednesday night. The Heat beat the Bulls 85-75. AP PHOTO

They're ready for a "street fight," if that's the route to the NBA Finals.

James came up big down the stretch to finish with 29 points, Dwyane Wade scored 24 and Miami beat the Chicago Bulls 85-75 Wednesday night to tie the Eastern Conference finals at one game apiece.

The Heat can breathe a little easier after escaping with a win and stealing home-court advantage. Coming off a lopsided loss in Game 1, they recovered down the stretch after blowing an 11-point lead to pull even in the series, with Game 3 in Miami on Sunday.

"The series has just started," James said. "It's 1-1. We're excited that we were able to come here and get a win. But it's just started."

James shook off a brutal opener and scored nine points over the final 4:27, starting with a 3-pointer that put Miami ahead for good, 76-73. He also had 10 rebounds despite a head cold, and Miami outrebounded the Bulls 45-41 after getting pounded 45-33 on the glass in the opener.

"That fourth quarter is going to epitomize this entire series," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after his team outscored Chicago 14-10 in the period. "It's an absolute street fight for both teams."

For James, it was a big turnaround after he managed just 15 points on 5-for-15 shooting while being harassed by Luol Deng in Game 1.

Wade also looked more like a superstar after scoring 18 on Sunday and chipped in with nine rebounds.

Udonis Haslem, whom Spoelstra called "an absolute championship warrior," provided a spark off the bench with 13 points, and the Heat beat the Bulls for the first time this season even though Chris Bosh scored just 10 after pouring in 30 in the opener.

"We got that one that we needed," Wade said. "Now, we go home and we've got to take care of business. This team right here is like us. They can win at home and on the road."

Derrick Rose led Chicago with 21 points but scored just two in the fourth quarter. Deng, the only other Bulls player in double figures, added 13 but had just four after the opening period.

Joakim Noah had nine points but only eight rebounds. Taj Gibson provided a spark in the fourth quarter, scoring all of his eight points. Carlos Boozer, however, was a non-factor with seven points and eight rebounds and sat out the final 16:21.

The Bulls missed countless layups and got outshot 47.1 percent to 34.1 percent. They were just 3 of 20 on 3-pointers and 16 of 26 at the foul line while getting beat on the glass.

They had no answer for James down the stretch, either, and came up short when it looked like they might find a way to pull this one out.

"We played a low-energy offense, a low-energy defense and the result was not good," Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said.

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