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Wade pushes Heat into East finals

The SportsXchange

MIAMI -- It seems that every time Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade is written off by the media, he changes the script.

Much of the talk prior to Wednesday night's Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinal between the Heat and the Chicago Bulls was about Wade's sore right knee, which contributed to him scoring just 11.3 points per game for the series.

However, Wade came through in the clutch Wednesday, scoring six of the Heat's final eight points as Miami advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the third straight year, eliminating the Bulls 94-91.

"Dwyane is uncanny when the competition is highest and fiercest," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "I saw that look in his eyes from the start of shoot-around. When you see him like that, you know he's going to step up to the challenge."

The Heat trailed the entire second half -- by as many as 11 points -- before surging back on top with 6:33 left in the game.

With the Heat leading 84-83 and 5:28 left, Wade came alive. In the next three minutes, he had six points, three rebounds and one block to help give Miami a 93-86 lead.

Ironically, Wade was in the locker room to start the fourth quarter. Spoelstra said it was to change his shoes, but Wade revealed that he wanted to re-tape his right knee.

"I knew it was going to be a tough fourth quarter," said Wade, who finished with 18 points, six assists and five rebounds. "I wanted (the tape) tight. After so much sweat, it kind of gets loose."

The tape job worked, and the Heat held off a final Bulls flurry that included two chances to send the game to overtime on the game's final possession. Nate Robinson and Jimmy Butler missed 3-point tries to secure Miami's win.

The Heat next will play the winner of the Indiana Pacers vs. New York Knicks series. The Pacers lead three games to one, with a potential elimination game set for Thursday in New York.

LeBron James led the Heat on Wednesday with 23 points, seven rebounds and eight assists.

"I've got no energy left," James said. "I want to rest for the next 24 hours."

The Bulls, who won the opening game of the series on the road, finished by losing four straight. It was Chicago's first four-game skid of the year.

Still, the Bulls fought back from early 10-0 and 22-4 deficits to dominate much of the game.

"That's been the story of our season," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said of his team's resilient nature. "I'm disappointed in losing the series, but I was never disappointed in this team."

Thibodeau was asked the difference in his team and the defending NBA champion Heat.

"Health," Thibodeau said simply.

His point was clear. The Bulls' best player, point guard Derrick Rose, missed the entire season. Starters Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng were absent the past few games, also with injuries.

It's a familiar refrain, Bulls players said.

"In the three years I've been here, we haven't been healthy for a playoff run yet," said forward Carlos Boozer, who led Chicago with 26 points and 14 rebounds Wednesday. "If we are healthy next year, it will be scary."

Boozer praised the efforts of his teammates, singling out Butler, Robinson and Richard "Rip" Hamilton.

"Jimmy played every minute of I don't know how many games, and he played LeBron tough," Boozer said. "Nate had to play almost every minute, too. Rip was a huge help for us."

Robinson, coming off an 0-for-12 performance in Game 4, had 21 points. Butler added 19. Hamilton, used sparingly earlier in the series, played 35 minutes off the bench and responded with 15 points.

All that was not enough to derail the Heat. Miami improved to 42-4 at home this season, including the playoffs, and with home-court advantage throughout the postseason, the Heat will be very difficult to dethrone as champions.

"We're not satisfied," Spoelstra said when asked about reaching the Eastern Conference finals. "We have the ultimate prize in mind. We know that it gets more difficult each round."

NOTES: Rose recently cracked Sports Illustrated's top 10 list of the most well-compensated athletes in sports. Rose, who sat out the entire season due to a knee injury, will earn $33.4 million this year, including $17 million on endorsements. His deal with adidas is worth $10 million annually. Boxer Floyd Mayweather ($90 million) and James ($56.5 million) are the top two earners. ... Robinson's 0-for-12 shooting performance in Game 4 was one of the worst in NBA playoff history. The record is Dennis Johnson's 0-for-14 in 1978 for the Seattle SuperSonics. The Heat's Ray Allen, while playing for Boston in 2010, went 0-for-13.
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