The Heat's Shaquille O'Neal may have been lounging in South Beach and Dwyane Wade may have busy tending to his sprained right wrist in the Heat locker room.
But James Posey and Ben Gordon did their best to make sure the Bulls-Heat rivalry stayed at a fever pitch Wednesday night at the United Center.
Posey, continuing his history of thuggish play in this consistently simmering series, clotheslined Luol Deng on a fast break with 7 minutes 16 seconds remaining in the Bulls' wild 109-103 victory before a raucous sellout of crowd 22,946.
Gordon took a time capsule back to his rookie season, supplying steely fourth-quarter heroics with 18 of his career-high 40 points and two of his five assists. It's the first 40-point game for a Bull since Elton Brand scored 44 against Washington on April 13, 2000.
"I was just trying to be aggressive," Gordon said. "We were very lackadaisical. We blew the lead. I knew we had to get the win however we could."
For his play, Posey drew a flagrant-two foul and immediately was ejected. Deng crashed to the floor and writhed in pain for several minutes, clutching his sprained right wrist, which had required surgery to repair a torn ligament in 2005.
With coach Scott Skiles glowering at Heat players, and athletic trainer Fred Tedeschi tending to him, Deng remained in the game to split a pair of free throws that snapped an 87-87 tie. Officials also assessed Kirk Hinrich and Udonis Haslem technical fouls for jawing.
Posey could be facing a suspension after receiving a one-game penalty in these teams' first-round playoff matchup last season for body-blocking Hinrich in Game 3.
Posey also broke rookie Tyrus Thomas' nose in these teams' season opener, a game the Bulls won by 42 points. Posey didn't receive a flagrant foul for that.
Asked if, given Posey's history, he's an advocate of players taking matters into their own hands, Skiles glowered some more.
"What I'm an advocate of wouldn't be politically correct to say in the 2006 NBA," Skiles said. "So I'll keep it to myself."
The Posey play came during a wild fourth quarter in which Miami, which once trailed by 20, took its first lead since the two-minute mark of the first quarter on one of three straight Jason Williams three-pointers with 9:25 left.
Gordon, who went 17 of 19 from the line, kept the Bulls afloat with a series of runners and jumpers.
Trailing 100-99, Gordon saved his best for last. He somehow tossed in a right-handed hook as he fell while Haslem fouled him with 70 seconds left. He drained the free-throw for a three-point play and 102-100 lead.
"I tried to make contact with one of the big guys," Gordon said. "I didn't even see the rim. I just threw it up and it went in."
After Hinrich's pressure defense on Jason Kapono, Gordon drew a double team and found Thomas, who got fouled by Alonzo Mourning and made both free throws with 24.5 seconds left.
Haslem followed with two free throws, but the Heat failed to corral the rebound when Gordon missed the second of two free throws with 14.6 seconds left. Forced to foul again, the Heat had its deal sealed when Gordon hit two free throws with 11.4 to play.
"Ben generally does a nice job of sensing when he's the only one who does have it going," Skiles said. "He's not afraid."
Wade, averaging 28.6 points, had exited late in the first quarter after failing to score in 6:20. Heat coach Pat Riley, who later accused Hinrich of injuring his star, had ridden a zone defense to crawl back into the game.
The Bulls built their large first-half lead with productive minutes from rookies Thabo Sefolosha and Tyrus Thomas. Gordon scored nine and Thomas added eight in a 27-6 run.
At that point, nobody could have predicted the rivalry would be stoked anew.
"We played them really tough in the playoffs last season," Gordon said. "I definitely think it's a rivalry."
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