Heat 94, Bulls 91
Knowing his team needed him at his best, Dwyane Wade retreated to the Miami Heat locker room after the third quarter for some quick treatment on his aching right knee.
When he came back, he was good as new.
And now he can rest until the Eastern Conference finals.
LeBron James scored 23 points, Wade added 18 and had a brilliant 45-second sequence that proved crucial, and the Heat clawed back from an 11-point second-half deficit to beat Chicago on Wednesday night and close out their second-round series in five games.
"We gave it everything we had," James said. "I have no energy left."
The Heat outscored Chicago 25-14 in the fourth quarter to escape and advance.
"I knew the fourth quarter was going to be tough so I wanted to re-tape my knee," said Wade, who has been battling bone bruises on his knee for several weeks. "I knew I was going to come back into a grind. Our trainers did a great job of getting it taped it enough so I could come out and play."
Did they ever.
Wade had a blocked shot, defensive rebound, offensive rebound and putback slam — all in a late 45-second span — to help cap a wild night of wild comebacks. The Heat blew an early 18-point lead, then pulled off a late rally to finish off the depleted Bulls, who still had two chances on their last possession to force overtime.
But Nate Robinson and Jimmy Butler missed 3-pointers, time expired, and Miami moved on to face Indiana or New York next week.
"Dwyane is uncanny," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "When the competition is at its highest, and its fiercest, he finds a way."
Carlos Boozer finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds for the Bulls, who were without Derrick Rose for the 99th straight game, as well as Kirk Hinrich (calf) and Luol Deng (illness). Robinson scored 21 points, Butler had 19, and Richard Hamilton 15 for the Bulls, who dropped the final four games of the series.
"Obviously we're disappointed in losing the series," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "But I was never disappointed in our team. I thought our team fought hard all year long. There was no quit in them."
True — all the way to the end.
A team that played without the 2011 NBA MVP in Rose, and dealt with a slew of other issues along the way, was within a couple shots from forcing the reigning champions to fly back to Chicago for a Game 6 on Friday night.
"We've got warriors here," Boozer said. "If we're healthy next season, we're going to be pretty good."
The Heat say they have more than a few of those warrior-types as well, including Wade, who said privately before the game that he was amused about constant speculation surrounding his knee — which has been banged up for weeks.
When the stakes were highest Wednesday, he was there for the Heat.
"I'll go on and on about how great he is," James said. "I really don't care for the trash talk that he receives."
Shane Battier opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer to get Miami within five. Another 3-pointer from Battier — over Boozer, his fellow Duke alum — came not long afterward, and he connected on a pair of free throws after being fouled on a 3-point try to cut Chicago's lead to 81-79.
Norris Cole had a pair of baskets, the second being a left-handed driving dunk, to put Miami on top, and the Heat found a way to close it out from there.
"They're a great team. A great team," Thibodeau said. "They're not going to beat themselves. You have to beat them.
Grizzlies 88, Thunder 84
With their trademark grit-and-grind mentality, Memphis is making history for a franchise with little prior postseason success.
Zach Randolph had 28 points and 14 rebounds, Mike Conley added 13 points and 11 assists and the fifth-seeded Grizzlies advanced to the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history by beating Oklahoma City.
"This is the first time, so it definitely means a lot. I'm happy, but we've still got work to do," Randolph said. "I want to win a ring."
The Grizzlies, who got swept out of the playoffs in their first three trips and had won just one postseason series before this season, have already made it farther than ever before but still aren't satisfied.
"We're trying to do something really special. We want to go as far as we can go," coach Lionel Hollins said. "To get there, we had to get through Oklahoma City. And now, we have to get through either Golden State or San Antonio to get further."
In a series filled with games that went down to the wire, the finale fit right in — even though the Thunder trailed by 12 with 3 minutes left.
Kevin Durant missed a 16-foot jumper from the left wing to tie it with 6 seconds left, finishing off a miserable shooting night for the three-time NBA scoring champion. Durant ended up with 21 points on 5-for-21 shooting, the third-worst performance of his playoff career.
"I gave it all I had for my team. I left it all out there on the floor," Durant said. "I missed 16 shots, but I kept fighting, I kept being aggressive. That's all I can ask for."
The Thunder, who made it to the NBA Finals last season, were eliminated in five games. The top seed in the West went 2-6 after All-Star guard Russell Westbrook had knee surgery two games into the first round.
"I believe in our guys. I'm disappointed we didn't win this series. I felt that we were good enough to win this series," coach Scott Brooks said.
Serge Ibaka had 17 points and eight rebounds before fouling out with 1:26 to play during a desperation comeback try for the Thunder. Reggie Jackson's 3-pointer finished off the 16-6 rally, cutting the deficit to 86-84 with 14.3 seconds remaining.
Randolph missed both free throws with 11.3 seconds on the clock to give the Thunder one last chance to save their season. Durant got the ball beyond the 3-point line on the left wing and navigated around Tony Allen before missing the jumper.
"That's the shot that we wanted. ... That's the shot I will live with 100 times out of 100 times," Brooks said.
Allen got the rebound, was fouled and made two free throws to close it out.
After letting a 14-point lead get trimmed to two, the Grizzlies regained control with a 12-2 run to start the fourth quarter and go up 76-64 with 6:03 remaining. Randolph had seven points during the stretch, including five from the foul line.
It was just a big enough cushion to finish off a series of games that all came down to the wire. The first three games featured a go-ahead basket in the final two minutes, and Game 4 went to overtime. Memphis won the final four games.
"They fought hard, they did everything that they could. Tonight, they really came back in the second half and just kept coming, kept coming," Hollins said. "We just were fortunate to just make enough plays to win the game. That's the way we've been all year, but we'll take it. They battled us and gave us everything they had."
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