The Miami Heat advanced to their third straight Eastern Conference final on Wednesday night with a victory over the Chicago Bulls, 94-91, in Game Five of the best-of-seven series.
The Heat needed a late run to get the victory as the home team entered the fourth quarter trailing 77-69. Forward Shane Battier knocked down two three-pointers, and added two free throws to help cut the deficit to two points with under nine minutes remaining. The Miami defense played a key role in the comeback, as the Bulls were limited to just 14 points in the fourth quarter.
LeBron James grabbed seven rebounds and dished out eight assists, and led the Heat with 23 points, but converted just five of his 14 field-goal attempts. Dwyane Wade scored 18 points on seven-of-13 shooting.
Carlos Boozer was one of the lone bright spots for the Bulls. The forward scored 26 points to go along with 14 rebounds.
The Bulls were without three key players, as Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, and Kirk Hinrich continued to be sidelined with injuries. There had been speculation that Rose would finally return to the team after sitting out the entire regular season and postseason after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in May 2012.
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The Heat will play the winner of the Indiana Pacers series with the New York Knicks. The Pacers lead the series, 3-1.
In the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder were denied a second consecutive trip to the NBA Finals after falling at home to the Memphis Grizzlies in Game Five, 88-84.
Kevin Durant missed a jump shot from about 16 feet to tie the game with six seconds remaining. It was an overall forgettable game for the high-scoring forward, who turned the ball over seven times, and managed to convert just five of his 21 field-goal attempts.
The victory marks the deepest the Grizzlies have ever gone in the postseason. The Grizzlies were swept out of the playoffs in their first three trips and had won just one postseason series before this season.
It was an overall tight series, as Memphis won the previous three games by six points each. In all four victories, the Grizzlies never shot better than 42 percent from the field.
Memphis shot just 37 percent in Game Five, but were able to force 14 turnovers. However, the Grizzlies were able to convert 25-of-29 free throws. Zach Randolph led all scorers with 28 points, and also grabbed 14 rebounds.
The Grizzlies await the winner of the San Antonio Spurs series with the Golden State Warriors. The Spurs lead the series, 3-2.