Bulls oust Heat, advance for first time since Jordan era
Michael Jordan's old Chicago jersey hangs over the Miami Heat's home floor, a tribute to the six-time NBA champion. Now, a new bunch of Bulls want a title of their own after ending the Heat's reign atop the league with a four-game sweep.
Michael Jordan's old Chicago jersey hangs over the Miami Heat's home floor, a tribute to the six-time NBA champion.
Now, a new bunch of Bulls want a title of their own after ending the Heat's reign atop the league with a four-game sweep.
Ben Gordon scored 24 points and Luol Deng had 22 yesterday, leading Chicago past host Miami, 92-79, in Game 4 to clinch the first-round Eastern Conference series. The Bulls advanced in the postseason for the first time since Jordan's last title in 1998.
Chicago, which meets Detroit next, became the first team to oust a defending champion in the first round since Phoenix did it to San Antonio in 2000.
"We felt confident coming into this series," Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich said. "We felt like we could win."
With good reason. Including playoffs, Chicago was 7-1 against Miami this season, starting with a 108-66 win on Opening Night, spoiling the Heat's championship-ring celebration, and ending its season by allowing only two points in the final 5:27 of the clincher - closing the game with a 14-2 run.
The coach of the Suns team that beat San Antonio seven years ago? Scott Skiles, who coaches the Bulls now and who put together a plan that befuddled Miami all series long.
"It's an accomplishment," Skiles said. "We're in a funny position here. We want to enjoy it. It was great. We played well. We played hard all four games. We deserved to win - but we want to keep playing."
Chicago became the 80th consecutive NBA team to advance after taking a 3-0 lead in a series.
"We ran into more than a formidable opponent," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "They are a great team . . . They can go a long way."
Dwyane Wade scored 24 points for Miami on 8-for-22 shooting, and added 10 assists. Shaquille O'Neal had 16 points, Alonzo Mourning scored 14 and James Posey had 18 rebounds - a club-playoff-record 17 on the defensive end - for the Heat.
"They were the better team," Wade said. "They won. We're not into what they were doing last year, saying they should have won . . . They beat us fair and square. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it."
In other games:
* At Oakland, Calif., Baron Davis scored 33 points and Jason Richardson had 22 as Golden State beat Dallas, 103-99, and took a surprising 3-1 lead in the Western Conference series. Dirk Nowitzki had 23 points and 15 rebounds for the Mavericks, who host Game 5 tomorrow night.
* At East Rutherford, N.J., Vince Carter scored 27 points, Richard Jefferson added 23, and the Nets took a 3-1 lead over Atlantic Division champion Toronto with a 102-81 victory over the Raptors. Jason Kidd added 17 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds for New Jersey, which can advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals with a victory in Game 5 tomorrow night.
* At Los Angeles, Steve Nash had 23 assists - one shy of the NBA playoff record - to go with 17 points, Amare Stoudemire had 27 points and a career playoff-high 21 rebounds, and Phoenix took a 3-1 lead over the Lakers in their first-round series with a 113-100 win. Nash left the game to a mixed reception with 1:02 remaining and the outcome long since decided. Magic Johnson and John Stockton share the single-game playoff assist record. *