Right from the start, LeBron James made it clear he was going to attack and no one was going to stop him.
CHICAGO (AP) — Right from the start, LeBron James made it clear he was going to attack and no one was going to stop him.
James came up big down the stretch with nine of his 29 points in the final 4:27, 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.
"It was a big game," James said. "We felt like it was a must win for us going back home."
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 in crunch time — thanks in large part to James — after blowing an 11-point lead.
Game 3 is Sunday in Miami.
James shook off a brutal opener and took over late in the fourth, starting with a 3-pointer that put Miami ahead for good at 76-73. He also had 10 rebounds despite a head cold, and Miami outrebounded the Bulls 45-41 after getting pounded 45-33 on the glass in the opener.
"That fourth quarter is going to epitomize this entire series," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It’s an absolute street fight for both teams."
It was a big turnaround for James after he managed only 15 points on 5-for-15 shooting while being harassed by Luol Deng in Game 1. Wade, coming off an 18-point performance in the opener, also had nine rebounds for Miami.
Miami reserve Udonis Haslem, whom Spoelstra called "an absolute championship warrior," provided a spark with 13 points, and the Heat beat the Bulls for the first time this season even though Chris Bosh scored just 10 points after pouring in 30 in the opener.
"We got that one that we needed," Wade said. "Now, we go home and we’ve got to take care of business. This team right here is like us. They can win at home and on the road."
Derrick Rose led Chicago with 21 points, only two of those coming 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 and eight rebounds, and Taj Gibson provided a spark in the fourth with all of his eight points. Carlos Boozer, however, was a non-factor with seven points and eight rebounds and sat out the final 16:21.
"We let one go, but it’s a tied series," Deng said. "It’s not the end of the world. These things will happen. We need to bounce back."
The Bulls missed countless layups and got outshot 47.1 percent to 34.1 percent. They were 3 of 20 from 3-point range and 16 of 26 at the foul line.
They had no answer for James down the stretch, either, and came up short when it looked as if 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.
Rose put it this way: "We can’t afford to go out and play like this. We let them get easy baskets, especially in transition."
The Heat led by 11 late in the third before the Bulls pulled even in the fourth, but James put Miami ahead for good when he hit a 3 with 4:28 left to break a 73-all tie. He added a jumper to make it a five-point game with 3:15 remaining.
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 put back his own miss and nailed a 20-footer to make it 84-75 with 47 seconds left.
The Heat looked as if they were ready to pull away in the third, going on a 10-0 run after Rose hit two free throws to cut it to 57-56 with 5:14 left.
Haslem blocked Rose and dunked on Keith Bogans for a three-point play to start the run and ended it with a vicious fastbreak dunk.
"I talked to him two days ago, and there was a look in his eye," Spoelstra said, referring to Haslem, who missed most of the regular season with a foot injury. "I’ve been through a lot of battles with that warrior, and I knew it was time to put him in."
Haslem continued to reiterate he was ready but understood he needed to be patient. When the opportunity came, he wasn’t looking to score.
"I was seeing guys running to the basket without anyone putting a body on them," he said. "My focus wasn’t on scoring tonight, it was defense and rebounding."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)