Dwyane Wade was ailing, so LeBron James and Chris Bosh more than picked up the slack.
Then Wade found his groove at the perfect time, and the Miami Heat, the team put together solely to win championships, moved one emotional victory away from the NBA Finals.
James scored 35 points, Bosh added 22 and the Heat beat the visiting Chicago Bulls, 101-93, last night, taking a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
Game 5 is tomorrow in Chicago, when the Heat can wrap up their first Finals trip since 2006.
"Even though it took an extra 5 minutes, we held serve," James said.
Wade went scoreless for nearly 33 straight minutes, before making a jumper with 2:08 left in overtime to help Miami keep the lead. He had two blocked shots in overtime, and after James made a contested jumper with 29 seconds remaining for a six-point lead, Derrick Rose's layup was swatted away on the next Chicago possession.
At long last, it was over.
"My teammates kept telling me that I would make the biggest play of the game," Wade said. "They told me to stick with it, stick with it - and I did. The game is not won in the first minute, it's won in the last so I stuck with it and was able to do some things to help us get a victory."
Bosh scored the first four points of overtime, and the Heat - now 8-0 at home in the playoffs - never trailed in the extra session. James closed it with two free throws with 1.4 seconds left, his 12th and 13th of the night, all without a miss. Bosh was 10 for 11 from the line, and Miami outscored Chicago 32-17 in that department.
The Heat made their final 24 free throws.
Rose scored 23 points for the Bulls, who got 20 apiece from Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer. Chicago has lost three straight games for the first time this season.
But what this game will be remembered for was how the Heat rallied around Wade - then watched him save his best for the very end.
"We reminded him in one of the final huddles, this is his time," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Wade made just five of 16 shots from the field, lacking his usual lift at the rim. He made a pair of free throws with 1:50 left in the first half for his seventh and eighth points, and didn't score again until overtime.
Better late than never.
That was just the start for the Heat.
"Hey, they're a great team," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "They compete. They play hard. They play great defense . . . and they made plays at the end."
Chicago turned the ball over on consecutive possessions, Wade turned the second of those into a layup with 1:01 left for a 95-89 lead, and the Heat soon knew they were one win away from the title round.
"I'm going to learn from it," said Rose of the loss in which he shot 8-for-27 with seven turnovers.
* The NBA players' association filed an unfair labor charge against the league with the National Labor Relations Board, a move it hopes could block a lockout it believes owners want.
The union says the NBA hasn't bargained in good faith, has made financial demands without offering concessions to the players, and has bypassed the union to deal directly with players.
The charge filed with Region 2 of the NLRB seeks "an injunction against the NBA's unlawful bargaining practices and its unlawful lockout threat."
The NBA and players are trying to reach a deal for a new collective bargaining agreement before the June 30 expiration of the current one. They plan to meet early next month during the NBA Finals, but remain far apart on major financial issues and a work stoppage remains a possibility.