What happened: The Miami Heat might have another long rest.
The Heat defeated the Chicago Bulls 94-91 Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena to win their Eastern Conference semifinal 4-1. Now, the Heat might not start the East finals until next Wednesday.
But it wasn’t easy in Game 5 against the Bulls. The Heat took an 18-point lead in the first quarter before falling behind by 11 in the third quarter. But they rallied in a fourth quarter that started with Chicago leading by eight.
Forward LeBron James led the Heat with 23 points and guard Dwyane Wade, shaking off a sore knee, added 18. Chicago got 26 points from forward Carlos Boozer, but just seven in the second half.
Indiana leads New York 3-1 in the other East semifinal. If the Pacers close out the Knicks on Thursday, the East finals will start Monday in Miami. If not, the series will begin Wednesday.
After sweeping Milwaukee 4-0 in the first round, the Heat had seven days off prior to the Chicago series. Now, they might have six.
The turning point: Trailing 77-69 to start the fourth quarter, the Heat went on a 13-4 run to take an 82-81 advantage. That was their first lead since midway through the second quarter.
The Heat were keyed during the run by forward Shane Battier. He hit a pair of 3-pointers and also made two free throws after being fouled on a 3-pointer.
After that run, the Heat kept the pressure on Chicago. They extended the lead to as many as seven points late before the Bulls had a chance to tie the score in the waning seconds. But they missed two 3-pointers.
The difference maker: The bench in the fourth quarter.
Entering the final quarter, the Heat had just 10 points from their reserves. But they got 15 in the fourth quarter, including eight from Battier.
In the end, the Heat simply wore down Chicago. The Bulls have played the entire series without injured starters Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich.
What it means: The Heat could get plenty of rest before the East final. There’s good and bad to that.
The good is Wade, bothered by a bone bruise on his right knee, will get additional time to heal. The bad news is the Heat could again come out rusty, which is what happened when they had a big break before losing to the Bulls 83-76 in Game 1 of their just-completed series.
What’s next: Game 1 of the East Finals against Indiana on Monday or against the Pacers or New York next Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena.