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Saturday, May 28, 2011

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Hard to the hole: Miami's LeBron James drives past Chicago's Ronnie Brewer in the third quarter of Game 5 on Thursday. The Heat beat the Bulls 83-80 to win the series 4-1. AP PHOTO

Heat finish feisty Bulls

AP

CHICAGO — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had a plan when they decided to team up in Miami and chase a championship together.

Now they have their shot.

After the wild courtship, the decision and a difficult season, the Heat are playing for the title.

James scored 28 points, Wade added 21, and they led a furious rally in the final minutes as Miami eliminated Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls 83-80 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday.

James and Wade were simply spectacular down the stretch, each scoring eight during a game-ending 18-3 run as the Heat wiped out a 12-point deficit to win the series.

Now, they are headed back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2006, and in a fitting twist, they'll be facing the Mavericks. Back then, with Wade leading the way, Miami beat Dallas to capture the championship. This time, it'll be James and Dirk Nowitzki going at it for their first rings.

The Heat will host Game 1 on Tuesday night.

"There's no sense of relief right now," James said. "We've still got work to do. We'll look at this moment tonight, have a little bit of time tomorrow to go over this moment, what we just accomplished. But we get ready for Dallas very soon. We don't take for granted this win and take for granted being Eastern Conference champions."

Even so, this is exactly where the Big Three intended to be right from the start, like it or not. And it's safe to say, most don't.

The Heat, after all, wore that villain label well. The free-agent frenzy left a bitter taste for many, particularly James' announcement on national TV.

"I understand a lot of the backlash that came at me going to Miami," he said. "But understand also, I did what was best for me, best for my family and best for me being a professional athlete."

As for the hatred?

"What's today's date — the 26th?" James said. "I say we've got about a month left. About a month left of continued hate. We'll see what happens next year."

The Heat have more immediate matters at hand. They had their difficulties getting this far, including a five-game losing streak in March, but look at them now.

They just knocked off the team that won more games than any other, that boasted the league's MVP in Rose and sent expectations soaring around Chicago in a way not seen since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were racking up championships.

Rose led Chicago with 25 points but hit just 9 of 29 shots. He fouled Wade on a key four-point play and missed a tying free throw with 26.7 seconds left.

"At the end, it's all me," Rose said. "Turnovers, missed shots, fouls. The series is over."

James had 11 rebounds and six assists. Wade's late surge helped negate his nine turnovers. Bosh added 20 points and 10 rebounds as the Heat pulled out a dramatic win.

"We had to go through a lot of adversity," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "That struggle that we went through in March, where we lost five straight — all of them close games, where we didn't execute down the stretch and weren't able to close games out — that helped us.

"As painful as that was, we had to go through that fire together to be able to gain the confidence where we could be successful now in the postseason."

The Bulls looked like they were in good shape up 77-65 with about three minutes to go, but Wade started the deciding run with a runner and layup.

A 3 by James pulled Miami within 77-72 with 2:07 left. Rose then scored on a spin move in the lane, but fouled Wade as he nailed a 3, resulting in a four-point play.



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