PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference first round; Heat lead 1-0.
Shaquille O’Neal has never lost a postseason series in which his team took a 1-0 lead.
Heat coach Pat Riley remained on the bench despite the death of his 96-year-old mother on Friday and guard Dwyane Wade scored 14 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter as Miami held off a pesky Bulls team 111-106 in Game 1 on Saturday night.
Wade, a Chicago native, had struggled against the Bulls in the regular season, averaging 12.3 points on 24.3 percent shooting in three matchups.
He overcame cramps in his left leg to go 8-for-21 from the floor and 14-for-16 from the free-throw line to lead the Heat to a comeback victory.
“Great players will find a way to get around any defense when you raise the stakes,” Riley said. “And Dwyane is a big-game guy.”
After Chicago used a 12-0 run to take a 91-87 lead, Wade scored the next six points and Miami didn’t trail again. He added 11 assists and O’Neal finished with 27 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks, answering any questions about whether he would be ready for the playoffs.
“I am feeling loose,” O’Neal said. “Pat gave me a couple of days off and I am feeling really good. We are going to come back, watch the film, make some adjustments and have another good game on Monday.”
O’Neal has won all 25 series in which his team won the first game.
Wade said cramps shouldn’t be an issue for Monday.
“I’ll be all right,” Wade said. “I’ll get a lot of liquids and Gatorade in me tonight, and I’ll be good for Monday.”
While the Heat should have their star guard in the lineup, they won’t have Udonis Haslem. The starting forward was suspended one game for throwing his mouthpiece toward referee Joey Crawford on Saturday night. He was ejected with 4:11 left in the opening half.
Chicago was at a disadvantage at the free-throw line, though, going 13-for-17. Miami made 32 of 39 attempts.
“No moral victories at this point in the season,” Gordon said. “We’ve just got to figure out how to slow them down. I thought in the first half they had way too many fast-break points and in the key moments of the game we had some turnovers that really hurt us.”
The Bulls may not have anybody to slow down O’Neal, but their three-guard offense with Hinrich, Gordon and Chris Duhon could give them a chance to sneak away with an upset.
Chicago went to the lineup in the second half after Haslem was ejected, and it proved a major factor in the team’s comeback in the fourth.
“There was no doubt in our minds coming in that we can stay with these guys just because of how hard we play,” Gordon said. “We just have to continue playing and hopefully have better luck next time.”
This is only the second time the Bulls have lost Game 1 in their last 13 playoff series. Chicago lost Game 1 of the 1998 NBA Finals to Utah but went on to win the series 4-2.
The series shifts to Chicago for Games 3 and 4 beginning Thursday.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Bulls - 7th seed. Heat - 2nd seed.
REGULAR SEASON TEAM LEADERS: Bulls - Gordon, 35 points; Nocioni, 16 rebounds; Hinrich, 8 assists. Heat - Wade, 30 points and 11 assists; O’Neal, 16 rebounds.