CHICAGO - LeBron James came up big down the stretch and scored 29 points, and Dwyane Wade added 24 as the Miami Heat beat the Chicago Bulls, 85-75, Wednesday night to tie the Eastern Conference finals at one game each.
"I put it all on the line tonight and did whatever it took for our team to win," James said.
The Heat can breathe a little easier after escaping with a win and stealing home-court advantage.
Coming off a lopsided loss in Game 1, they recovered down the stretch after blowing an 11-point lead to pull even in the series.
James shook off a brutal opener and scored nine points over the final 4 minutes, 27 seconds, starting with a three-pointer that put Miami ahead for good, 76-73. He also had 10 rebounds, and Miami outrebounded the Bulls, 45-41, after getting pounded, 45-33, on the glass in the opener.
Even though he was battling a head cold, it was a big turnaround after he managed just 15 points on 5-for-15 shooting while being harassed by Luol Deng in Game 1.
For the Bulls, it was missed shots and wasted opportunities. They couldn't connect in the fourth quarter and they couldn't stop a late surge by James, either.
"He's one of those guys - and you really can't measure him statistically - he brings a lot of toughness to their team, high-energy guy, terrific defensively," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.
The Bulls, down by 11 in the third quarter, tied the game on a basket by Taj Gibson with a little more than seven minutes to go and then squandered several chances to take the lead against the determined Heat.
"They were into us, they fought us," Thibodeau said. "Their ball pressure was great, they challenged shots, and when the ball went up, they fought us."
Derrick Rose led Chicago with 21 points but scored just two in the fourth quarter. Deng, the only other Bulls player in double figures, added 13 but had just four after the opening period.
Chicago managed just one basket the rest of the way, scoring only 10 in the fourth quarter. The Bulls shot only 34 percent and were 4 for 16 in the last period.
Game 3 is Sunday in Miami.
Thunder's big problem
DALLAS - Thunder coach Scott Brooks is tempted to try the ultimate gamble - the invisible defender - to try to contain the Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki.
That's right, nothing. Nobody to even shout, "Boo!" whenever Nowitzki loads up to shoot in Thursday night's Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.
Brooks surely was joking Wednesday when he suggested not guarding Nowitzki.
Brooks wasn't laughing, though, because he still was awed and frustrated by what happened in Tuesday's opener, when Nowitzki made 12 of 15 shots from the field and set a playoff record by hitting all 24 of his free throws on his way to 48 points, the most by anyone this postseason.
"There were nine shots that he made, no matter what you did, you couldn't have guarded him any better," Brooks said. "We put smalls [on him], we put medium-sized guys on him, we put big guys on him, we put everybody on him. We tried to take it out of his hands. The only thing we didn't do was not guard him.
"Maybe tomorrow night, if we want to do something different, we don't challenge him. We play a zone and let him go free," Brooks added.
Nowitzki simply had one of those nights superstars have, making almost everything he put up and getting to the foul line when he didn't.
He didn't pad it with any three-pointers, either. He didn't even try any, despite being an NBA-best 60 percent from behind the arc this postseason.
He figures the Thunder will try something different in Game 2. Rather than trying to guess along, "whatever comes, comes," he said.