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A little flair, quite a scare
At the buzzer, Kirk Hinrich hurled the ball the length of the court, putting an exclamation point on the Bulls' emotional 100-97 victory Saturday night over Miami.
Hinrich's jubilation contrasted sharply with the glum look Ben Wallace wore. He left the United Center on a golf cart, crutches at his side.
Team officials said Wallace suffered a hyperextended sprained left knee after Udonis Haslem's head smashed into him with 5 minutes 1 second remaining in another intense chapter in an increasingly heated rivalry.
Wallace will undergo an MRI exam Sunday to determine the length of his absence. Coach Scott Skiles said team doctors told him there is nothing structurally wrong.
"We're encouraged so far," athletic trainer Fred Tedeschi said. "On exam, it looks good. It doesn't look like anything's torn. You need another day to look at it for a timeline. That's tough to predict."
This isn't: When the Bulls and Miami play, intensity follows, even if Shaquille O'Neal doesn't play.
Ben Gordon's 34 points and Hinrich's 26 allowed the Bulls to prevail for the fourth straight time in the series.
This marked the teams' first meeting since James Posey drew a one-game suspension for a flagrant foul Dec. 27 on Luol Deng at the United Center. The sellout crowd of 22,951 booed Posey when he entered late in the first quarter and jeered him when he fouled out in the fourth quarter.
But the extracurricular physical play was limited to Alonzo Mourning and Wallace drawing a double technical foul midway through the first period following incidental contact after a whistle and then some jawing.
"There's a lot going on between these teams," Hinrich said. "It seems like there's a little bit extra whenever we play them."
The Bulls, who never trailed for the second straight game, finished with 25 fast-break points and attacked aggressively to build a 17-point lead early.
Hinrich and Gordon scored 22 of the Bulls' 27 first-quarter points, and Hinrich helped hold Dwyane Wade scoreless until 4:04 remained in the half.
Wade finished with 24 points on 8 of 24 shooting.
"He's as tough a cover as there is and I thought Kirk did a great job on him," Skiles said.
But Miami refused to fold, pulling even at 86-86 and again at 89-89 after trailing by 10 early in the fourth. Gordon's jumper with 1:58 remaining snapped the second tie.
After a Posey miss, P.J. Brown, who had subbed for Wallace, drained two free throws with 1:34 left.
Jason Kapono hit a jumper for Miami, but Hinrich countered with a turnaround jumper in the lane. Hinrich then tacked on two free throws.
"We didn't get complacent just because we beat Dallas," Gordon said. "We came out early and took care of business. That's what we have to do to be successful."
With or without Wallace when a seven-game trip starts Wednesday.
After his collision, Wallace gingerly took two steps and then collapsed, clutching the knee and remaining on the ground for several minutes. Malik Allen and Michael Sweetney carried him off the court.
Wallace finished with 15 rebounds and four blocked shots in 39 minutes. That's the second straight game Wallace has looked interested and energized again, which would make his loss even more painful.
"If he's out, we'll have to have some other guys step up," Hinrich said. "It'll be a good test for us."
The Bulls passed one Saturday.