Jimmy Butler missed a three-pointer from the wing that would've tied the game, allowing the Miami Heat to overcome the Chicago Bulls, 94-91, at the American Airlines Center in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Wednesday night.
Dwyane Wade's tip-dunk near the three-minute mark gave Miami a seven-point lead and sent the home crowd into a frenzy. They never looked back, despite Chicago cutting it to within three at the one-minute mark behind baskets by Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson. The Heat managed to carry that momentum to a series win and become the first team to advance into the NBA conference finals.
Wade's tip-dunk, easily the play of the game, is worth another look:
For Miami, it took a balanced effort to conquer the Bulls. Four of the five starters scored in double figures, led by LeBron James' 23 points. He just 5-of-13 from the field, but mitigated those issues by making 12-of-15 free throws. Wade was clutch down the stretch after struggling with his knee injury in the first half, finishing with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Carlos Boozer led the way for the Bulls, scoring 26 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Nate Robinson got into early foul trouble, but managed to add 21 points and six assists.
The first half was a rollercoaster ride that saw the Heat dominate from the opening tip and hit their first seven shots. Chicago looked rattled as they committed five turnovers in the first quarter before going on a 20-5 run that spanned through the first and second frames. Boozer was the star of the half and finished with 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting.
The Bulls also did a serviceable job on James, who scored 10 points while hitting 2-of-4 shots in that same span. They got the ball out of his hands early, and it helped them force the rest of the Heat squad to beat them.
The third quarter saw the momentum stay with the Bulls, who continued to stifle the Heat with tough defense and force contested shots. The Heat are at their best when they get easy buckets in transition, and the Bulls put a stop to the easy scores. Neither team scored a fast break point in the third, and the Bulls did their job in maintaining a 77-69 lead through three.
But it was all Miami in the fourth, and they outscored Chicago 25-14 in the final frame. The Heat shot 46 percent from the field and committed just 10 turnovers, while giveaways cost the Bulls, who had 16 of their own.