Chicago LeBron James came up big down the stretch and scored 29 points, Dwyane Wade added 24, and the Miami Heat 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.
James shook off a brutal opener and scored nine points over the final 4:27, starting with a three-pointer that put Miami ahead for good, 76-73. He also had 10 rebounds, and Miami outrebounded the Bulls 45-41 after getting pounded 45-33 on the glass in the opener.
Despite battling a head cold, it was big turnaround after he managed just 15 points on 5-for-15 shooting while being harassed by Luol Deng in Game 1.
“I put it all on the line tonight and did whatever it took for our team to win,” James said.
Wade also looked more like a superstar after scoring 18 on Sunday. Udonis Haslem, whom Heat coach Erik 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.
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.
The Bulls missed countless layups and got outshot 47.1 percent to 34.1 percent. They were just 3-of-20 on three-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,” coach Tom Thibodeau said.
The Heat led by 11 late in the third, only to see the Bulls wipe it all out all in the fourth, with Gibson providing a big spark.
He cut it to 71-69 early in the fourth with back-to-back jumpers for his first points of the game, pumping both arms after the second shot went in.
Then, he tied it at 73 with 7:16 left after Haslem lost the ball out of bounds, drawing more roars from the crowd, but the teams traded misses for about three minutes before James put Miami ahead with a three. Then, he scored again with 3:15 left to make it 78-73.
Gibson delivered a slam over three defenders and got fouled by Wade, the same guy he delivered a poster-worthy dunk on in Game 1, to make it a three-point game with 2:29 left, but missed the free throw.
James then put back his own miss and nailed a 20-footer to make it 84-75 with 47 seconds left.