Heat scorch Bulls

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MIAMI – Same old story: With the Miami Heat in trouble, Dwyane Wade saved the day.

Wade hit a spinning jumper in the lane with 1:04 left to halt a frantic Chicago rally, and blocked Ben Gordon’s layup with 26 seconds left to ensure that Miami would beat the Bulls 115-108 on Monday night and take a 2-0 lead in the teams’ best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series.

Jason Williams and Shaquille O’Neal each had 22 points for Miami, which saw what was a 20-point third-quarter lead cut to four with 1:15 remaining.

But Wade added 21 points, seven assists, five rebounds and four steals for the Heat, who tied a franchise playoff record with six players in double figures.

Antoine Walker – who played the first 40:20 without a rest, filling in for the suspended Udonis Haslem – added 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Heat, who also got 12 points from James Posey and 11 from Gary Payton.

Andres Nocioni led all scorers with 30 points – on 13-for-15 shooting – for Chicago. Kirk Hinrich had 17 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter for the Bulls, who will host Game 3 on Thursday night.

The Bulls allowed 111 points or more four times in the regular season.

The Heat now have done it twice in this series, and shot 52 percent on Monday.

Walker scored off an offensive rebound with 8:12 left, giving Miami a 102-84 lead – and a two-game series lead seemed all but certain.

Five minutes later, those prospects were precarious, at best.

Hinrich hit three straight jumpers – a personal 7-0 run – to get the Bulls within 102-91 with 4:52 left, and he scored four more points in what was a 13-2 Chicago burst that cut Miami’s lead to 104-97 with 3:00 left.

Wade found Walker for a layup at the 2:46 mark, and hit a jumper 59 seconds later to push Miami’s lead back to 108-99. Once again, the Bulls weren’t done – Hinrich scored, and after Wade missed from the same spot he’d hit from one possession earlier, Nocioni hit a 3-pointer with 1:15 left that got Chicago within four.

But Wade scored on the next trip, Nocioni threw the ball away on Chicago’s next possession, and Miami could soon exhale.

No one need remind Chicago how a 2-0 series lead guarantees little; the Bulls blew a two-game lead in the first round against Washington last season, dropping the next four games. But recovering is a daunting task; the Bulls have prevailed only once in 14 previous playoff series after starting with two losses.

The Heat have taken 2-0 series leads on five other occasions, and won them all.

After Michael Sweetney hit two free throws with 5.4 seconds left in the half, the Bulls could have gone into intermission trailing by only seven.

Instead, in a flash, the margin was 11.

Williams streaked down the right sideline and made a layup with 1.2 seconds left – leaving enough time for one more score. Wade intercepted Chicago’s inbound pass and dunked just before the clock went to 0.0, giving Miami a 68-57 lead at the break.

And the deficit had to perplex the Bulls, who shot the ball at a ridiculous clip in the first half. They hit 61 percent of their tries, were 6-for-8 from 3-point range and 7-for-8 from the foul line – yet still faced a double-digit hole, largely because of 12 turnovers that Miami cashed in for 14 points.

For the second straight game, the Bulls – who led the NBA in field-goal percentage defense during the regular season – couldn’t do much to slow Miami’s offense.

The Heat were up 8-0 before the game was 11/2 minutes old, and although Miami later found itself trailing by three in the second quarter – a period which Chicago began with a 9-0 run – it outscored the Bulls 19-10 in the final five minutes before halftime.

Miami’s lead reached 15, then its largest, after O’Neal and Wade had the opening two baskets of the second half.

Nocioni had five points in a 7-0 burst that got Chicago within 72-64, but Wade spun in the lane and threw a lob for a one-handed O’Neal slam that got Miami’s cushion back to 10 and ended the Bulls’ run.

Posey and Walker hit back-to-back 3-pointers later in the third to start what became a 12-2 Miami run, with Posey capping it with a layup for an 89-69 lead, and the Heat entered the fourth up 95-76.

Notes: Only 16 teams in NBA history have rallied from 0-2 deficits in a best-of-seven series. … Nocioni hit six straight shots at one point, mostly jumpers. The streak ended on a missed 2-footer in the third quarter. … The clocks stopped working with 2:55 left in the first quarter, shortly after Wade hit a jumper. Bulls coach Scott Skiles argued with referee Dan Crawford that the shot shouldn’t count, to no avail. … Celtics forward Paul Pierce, a former teammate and still a close friend of Walker’s, was in the crowd for the second straight game. … O’Neal was 5-for-5 in the first half from the foul line, albeit doing so after two misses were waved off because of Chicago lane violations.

AP-ES-04-24-06 2248EDT

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