The composure the Bulls practically had trademarked in the playoffs went by the wayside Tuesday night.
The Miami Heat gave the Bulls plenty of opportunities in Game 5 of the teams' first-round Eastern Conference playoff series, the biggest being Dwyane Wade's departure for more than eight minutes because of a hip injury.
The Bulls let them all go to waste in the fourth quarter of a 92-78 loss at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Heat took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series and will try to clinch Thursday night at the United Center. If necessary, Game 7 would be played Saturday in Miami, where the Bulls are 0-3 in the postseason.
"Tonight was probably our best chance to get a win on their home floor," Bulls guard Ben Gordon said. "We just weren't able to capitalize."
The Bulls didn't resort to arguing with each other the way the Heat's Wade and Gary Payton did Sunday during a Bulls home victory, but their frustration was written all over the technical foul on Andres Nocioni with 1 minute 44 seconds left in the game.
Nocioni was the prominent Bull, scoring 23 points to go with 10 rebounds, but fouls disrupted his play. Worse for the Bulls, Gordon and Kirk Hinrich, who like Nocioni had set a torrid pace in the first four playoff games, combined to go 6 of 29.
"I thought all my shots were going in," Hinrich said. "When it doesn't, it just gets frustrating."
Hinrich scored only nine and Gordon just 10.
The Bulls caught a big break in the second quarter after Michael Sweetney used his 270-pound frame to block a Wade layup, which left Wade in obvious pain on the floor. Wade was helped off with 2:35 left. An X-ray didn't reveal anything more serious than a bruised left hip.
Even with Shaquille O'Neal in foul trouble and Wade getting treatment for his injury, the Bulls couldn't gain momentum beyond a five-point lead with 5:58 left in the third.
"We played well for almost three quarters," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "Our defense kind of broke at the end. We made stupid mistakes."
Wade returned with 5:50 left in the third. About two minutes later he tied the game with two free throws on his way to a game-high 28 points.
"I knew I would try to come back, but I didn't know how effective I would be because I couldn't put any pressure on it," Wade said. "I knew that I would try. Coach [Pat Riley] said, `Are you sure?' And I said, `I'm sure.'"
Wade said the injury slowed him, but he sank all three of his shots in the fourth.
Before the game, Bulls coach Scott Skiles talked about weathering a strong start by Miami. It came down to surviving the Heat's furious rush in the fourth, when they outscored the Bulls 31-17.
"We kind of lost our poise out there, and they ran away from us," Skiles said. "That was it."
The game was tied 61-61 going into the fourth. Then Antoine Walker blocked a Deng shot and Sweetney plowed down James Posey for an offensive foul--both signs that the Bulls were doomed.
"I'm not taking anything away from Miami," said Deng, who scored only four points. "But we didn't really convert."
The Bulls went scoreless for more than four minutes to open the fourth before Gordon sank his one and only three-pointer of the night.
He finished 1-for-7.
The Bulls ended up shooting 3 of 15 in the final quarter, and the Heat went up by as many as 19.
"In a matter of minutes, the game was gone," Skiles said.
firstname.lastname@example.orgCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times