Heat tame Bulls


MIAMI – Dwyane Wade’s hip was smarting from a frightening first-half tumble, and the Heat were trailing by five in the season’s biggest game.

Then he returned to save the day – and perhaps the season – for Miami.

Wade scored 28 points, 15 after returning from Miami’s training room, and the Heat beat the Chicago Bulls 92-78 Tuesday to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference first-round series.

Antoine Walker scored 17 points and Shaquille O’Neal, playing one day after he became a father for the sixth time, added 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Heat, who can close the series out in Chicago when Game 6 is played Thursday night.

Otherwise, it’s back to Miami for a winner-take-all Game 7 on Saturday.

Andres Nocioni had 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls, who managed to shoot only 35 percent. Michael Sweetney had 16 points and Ben Gordon added 10 for Chicago – on 3-for-16 shooting, only slightly worse than backcourt mate Kirk Hinrich’s 3-for-13 effort.

Sweetney hit a pair of free throws with 4:47 left to draw Chicago within 77-73 – but Miami sealed it with a 15-0 run over the next four minutes. Wade hit a 3-pointer with 4:02 left, James Posey added another 3-pointer a minute later, and the Bulls had no answers.

Wade’s return coincided with the start of a 21-6 Miami run, which gave the Heat a 71-61 lead with 8:12 remaining.

With the Bulls mired in a 1-for-11 shooting skid, Wade – who was carried off 2:35 before halftime and missed the first 6:10 of the third – opened the fourth quarter with a jumper that put Miami ahead for good, then found O’Neal for an alley-oop minutes later. He closed the run with another jumper.

Miami, which seethed after being awarded only five free throws in Game 4 in Chicago, got plenty of tries from the line in the early going of Game 5.

Problem was, O’Neal couldn’t convert them – a trend that plagued the Heat for much of the night. Miami finished 22-for-41 from the line.

O’Neal got to the line 10 times – matching a Heat postseason one-quarter record – in the game’s first 5:10, yet missed eight of those attempts, and that didn’t even include one clank erased by a Chicago lane violation.

Still, the Heat built a nine-point lead in the opening quarter, using a 15-4 run to build a 23-14 advantage with 1:38 left. Wade had eight points in that burst, including a two-handed slam off a missed layup by Walker – a play Wade set up with a spinning, no-look pass.

The Heat held the lead throughout the entire second quarter, taking a 40-38 edge into intermission – even after shooting only 37 percent in the first two periods, compared with the Bulls’ 34 percent clip.

That lead seemed, at best, tenuous – considering the Wade situation.

With about 2:45 left in the half, Wade went airborne near the basket with Sweetney coming over to help Hinrich defend the play. Wade and Sweetney made contact and the Heat guard tumbled to the court – remaining down in obvious pain.

He rolled over, grabbing his left hamstring. No foul was called, and Wade was eventually helped into the Heat locker room where he was diagnosed with a bruised left hip.

Miami led by five when he left – and was down by five when he returned.

The Bulls opened the second half with a 17-10 run, with Wade still getting treatment and as O’Neal picked up his fourth foul – on a play where replays showed Walker, not O’Neal, fouled Sweetney with 7:01 left.

But Wade returned 71 seconds later with the Heat down 55-50, and Miami scored the next seven points – capped by Wade’s jumper with 1:53 left – to reclaim a two-point lead, doing so as the Bulls went 4:13 without a point.

The lead changed hands three more times late in the period, before Wade’s two free throws with 16 seconds left tied it at 61 entering the fourth – and the Heat then opened the fourth with a 10-0 run.

Notes: O’Neal made a free throw 3:28 into the game, ending what was an 0-for-9 drought at the line since the start of Game 3. … The Bulls committed six fouls in the first 6:13 – all against O’Neal. Five of them were with the Heat on offense, the other when O’Neal took a charge against Luol Deng. … Hinrich left the court briefly in the second quarter after apparently twisting an ankle. He missed about five minutes before returning. … Heat trainer Ron Culp turned 60 Tuesday. … Bulls backup C Luke Schenscher banked in a free throw with 1:20 left in the third quarter.

AP-ES-05-02-06 2305EDT