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.
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.
Spurs 109, Kings 98
SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Spurs refused to be pushed around by Bonzi Wells and Ron Artest – no matter how many points the Sacramento pair scored.
Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker helped the Spurs overcome a combined 62 points from Wells and Artest, going into the lane for five straight baskets down the stretch to pull out a 109-98 victory for a 3-2 lead in their first-round series.
Eighth-seeded Sacramento still has a chance of pulling off the upset, but it won’t be easy. The Kings must win Friday night at home to force a Game 7 in San Antonio on Sunday.
Nets 92, Pacers 86
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It took the New Jersey Nets three great performances and almost an entire game to put away the injury-ravaged Indiana Pacers.
Vince Carter had 34 points, 15 rebounds and a game-clinching dunk with 28 seconds to play as the Nets beat the Pacers 92-86 to take a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven first-round series.
Richard Jefferson added 24 points and Jason Kidd set a team-postseason record with 15 assists as New Jersey won its second straight game in the series.
Game 3 will be played in Indianapolis on Thursday.
If a deciding Game 7 is necessary, it will be played here on Saturday. Jermaine O’Neal scored 19 points and Anthony Johnson 14 for the Pacers, who had five players score in double figures.
While the Pacers showed a tremendous amount of grit and determination in hanging around in Game 5 at the Continental Airlines Arena, they need to get healthy in a hurry if they want to survive.
Forward Peja Stojakovic missed his second straight game and third in the series with a knee injury. That was expected. What wasn’t was the absence of starting center Jeff Foster, who sat out with a back problem.
That left O’Neal, Stephen Jackson (13 points) and Anthony Johnson to carry the load, and they couldn’t do it despite a great effort that saw Indiana tie the game at 72 early in the fourth quarter.
The game-tying basket in a game in which the Pacers never led came on a fast-break layup by Fred Jones with 10:41 to play.
The Nets called timeout and turned to Carter, who was 13-for-24 from the field. The All-Star guard hit a jumper in the lane to put them ahead by two and Lamond Murray followed about two minutes later with a 3-pointer – his only basket of the game – to push the lead to 77-72.
A three-point play by Jefferson pushed the lead to 84-77, but the Pacers still wouldn’t go away. Three times in the final 1:41 the Pacers closed their deficit to three points, the last time at 89-86 with 50 seconds to go on two free throws by Jones.
With the game on the line on the Nets’ next possession, Carter drove the left side of the lane, elevated and slammed home a spectacular dunk that brought the sellout crowd to it feet.
Indiana never scored again.
The Nets had chances to blow open the game, taking leads of 11 points in the second quarter and 10 in the third, but the Pacers never gave up.
Notes: The last time the Nets and Pacers met in a Game 5, Indiana great Reggie Miller banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime in what was then a first-round series decider. New Jersey won in overtime en route to reaching the NBA Finals in 2002. … Celebrities in attendance included actor Ethan Hawke, singer Jay-Z and Beyonce and Portland guard Sebastian Telfair.