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Bulls waste late 12-point lead in season-ending 83-80 loss to Heat

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Updated: July 3, 2011 1:43PM



The trend wouldn’t go away. For the fourth consecutive game, the Bulls wilted at the end and the
Miami Heat basked in the glow of victory.

Final score Thursday: Heat 83, Bulls 80. Game, set and match.

The Heat eliminated the Bulls 4-1 in the Eastern Conference finals to advance to the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.

The Bulls put up a good battle before fading, the kind of battle that had the United Center roaring. In the end, though, the odds that were stacked against them prevailed.

Those odds were 21/2 to 1, as Le-
Bron James (28 points), Dwyane Wade (21) and Chris Bosh (20) outdueling Derrick Rose (25) in the battle of NBA stars.

The Bulls became the 21st consecutive team to lose a conference finals after falling behind 3-1 in the series. The last team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the conferece finals was the Boston Celtics in 1981.

Trailing 77-65 with 3:14 left, the Heat roared back with startling efficiency, outscoring the Bulls 18-3 the rest of the way.

‘‘It’s frustrating,’’ Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. ‘‘That’s a good team, some of the best players in the world. But we just let this one slip through our hands. We were really up, had a nice lead. That’s what’s so frustrating about it.’’

Two baskets by Wade cut the lead to eight points. Then James made a three-pointer, Wade converted a four-point play and James sank
another three-pointer. The Bulls’ only answer during that time was a floater by Rose, and the score was tied at 79 with a minute left.

Shaking off his own nine turnovers, James then stripped Rose and made a 20-footer at the other end to give the Heat an 81-79 lead with 29 seconds left. When Rose missed the second of two free throws with
26.7 seconds left, the Bulls’ hopes flickered.

‘‘They have the ability to make tough shots, and they’re hard to guard,’’ Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ‘‘They got calls, and that backed us up some. We weren’t as aggressive, and that led to some easy scores. But overall, I thought our defense was good. We just didn’t make shots down the stretch.’’

Rose was aided in the final battle by some big games from unlikely places. Kurt Thomas, 38, who had not played since May 4, came off the bench to make two clutch jumpers and grab eight rebounds. Ronnie Brewer (10 points), Gibson (seven rebounds) and Kyle Korver (five points) all contributed as the Bulls’ bench outscored the Heat’s 22-11.

Rose had another tough shooting night, going 9-for-29 from the field and 2-for-8 from three-point range. He did, however, have eight assists. Luol Deng added 18 points but shot only 6-for-17.

It wasn’t the best of games for Rose, who once again had to soldier on without a bona fide second option against the Heat’s blanket defense.

After leading by seven points at the half, the Bulls opened a 57-44 edge with 4:51 left in the third quarter and seemed to be in command.

But a string of fouls allowed the Heat to close the gap to 58-53 with 8-for-9 free-throw shooting. A flagrant foul by Bulls forward Carlos Boozer, who literally got a hand in James’ face, seemed to ignite the Heat.

‘‘I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like that,’’ Thomas said of the Bulls’ collapse. ‘‘It seemed like they hit one big shot after another. We let a golden
opportunity get away.’’

The Bulls shot 36 percent to the Heat’s 39 percent and were outrebounded 45-42.

The defeat left the Bulls 42-8 at at the United Center this season,
including 6-3 in the playoffs. Two of those losses came in three games there in this series.



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