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Bulls’ offense sputters in 85-75 loss to Heat in Game 2

Derrick Rose gets hit by Heat's Dwyane Wade Udonis Haslem. Rose had two points fourth quarter Game 2 Wednesday night.

Derrick Rose gets hit by the Heat's Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem. Rose had two points in the fourth quarter of Game 2 on Wednesday night. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 22, 2011 7:03PM

It has been an emotional week at the United Center for superstars identifiable by their first names.

On Tuesday at the UC, it was Oprah Winfrey’s farewell.

On Wednesday, the Bulls were hoping to move a step closer to saying adios to LeBron James.

The trouble is, unlike Oprah, James has no interest in entering the next phase of life. Shaking off a cold along with Bulls defenders, he led the Miami Heat to an 85-75 victory in Game 2, evening the Eastern Conference finals at one game apiece.

It now shifts for the next two games to Miami, where the Bulls will try to take back a road win.

‘‘At the end, they had the will,’’ said Bulls forward Taj Gibson, who scored all eight of his points in the fourth quarter. ‘‘We gave this one away.’’

The Bulls, who were outscored 12-2 in the final seven minutes
after they battled back to a 73-73 tie, scored only 10 points in the fourth quarter, a team record for fewest points in a playoff quarter.

James and Dwyane Wade ‘‘made big shots for their team,’’ forward Luol Deng said. ‘‘The game was
really about — it was a fight. It was tied toward the end. And they won the fight tonight.’’

The setback surprised Gibson, who expected the Bulls to out-battle the Heat down the stretch.

‘‘Yeah, I thought so,’’ Gibson said, ‘‘because we’ve been in that situation many times, especially with that team. We just couldn’t get the ball
to bounce our way. Still, on defense, our intensity has to be a lot better than that.’’

If there was trouble on the set of ‘‘Two and a Half Men’’ on Sunday — when James and Dwyane Wade shot a combined 37.5 percent (12-for-32) while the underappreciated Chris Bosh scored 30 — that wasn’t the case in Game 2.

James and Wade showed why they’re regarded as two of the most dangerous scorers in the NBA. James had 29 points on 12-for-21 shooting; Wade had 24 while making 8 of 16.

The Bulls had no answers at either end, letting the Heat shoot 47 percent while they managed only a meager 34 percent.

Main men Derrick Rose (21 points, 7-for-23), Deng (13 points, 5-for-15) and Carlos Boozer (seven points, 3-for-10) all had tough nights.

Why was the intensity missing?

‘‘I really don’t know,’’ said Rose, who was stifled by a determined Heat blanket. ‘‘We can’t afford to go out there and play like this. I know that. They have great players on their team. We let them get easy baskets, especially in transition. We can’t do that if we are trying to win this series.’’

At least Oprah, who was making her own exit call after 25
years, was surrounded by thousands of adoring fans.

Not so with LeBron, whose controversial, televised ‘‘Decision’’ program last summer was panned everywhere outside Miami. The man who’s also known as the King was surrounded by a United Center throng that wanted the Bulls to crown him.

When he picked up two early fouls, they cheered. When he missed an early dunk, they roared their
appreciation — especially when James’ shadow, Deng, made a
thunderous transition dunk at the other end.

But James showed why he’s worthy of the accolades he receives.

‘‘LeBron was really big down the stretch,’’ Wade said. ‘’He hit the shots we needed. He also guarded D-Rose. His three was really big. That’s why we put the ball in his hands.’’

James broke the 73-73 tie by draining a three-pointer with 4:28 left. He then added another jumper to put Miami on top 78-73 with 3:14 left.

‘‘Our effort was there tonight,’’ James said. ‘‘They’re a bigger team than us, but height is not all there is to it. It’s the will to get it. Dwyane Wade and I took it upon ourselves tonight to be more assertive and get the job done.’’

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