CHICAGO, April 27 (Ticker) --
One of the worst games of
's career could not have come at a better time for the
Plagued by fouls and turnovers, O'Neal had one basket through
the first three quarters and never was a factor as the Miami
Heat absorbed a thorough 109-90 beating from the Bulls, who got
back into the Eastern Conference first-round series.
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scored 24 points for the seventh-seeded Bulls, who
avoided the slow start that cost them in the first two games in
Miami and rediscovered the rhythm they displayed during their
playoff push at the end of the regular season.
"We did what we had to do to win this game," Bulls coach
said. "Defensively it was not about eliminating the
penetration, just when it came we did a better job of cracking
back on Shaq. We did not allow him lobs, or let him get in
front of the rim."
After a pair of relatively easy wins at home, the second-seeded
Heat came apart at the first sign of adversity. They ended the
game barking at the officials and taking cheap shots at the
"When you are getting your (butt) kicked you take it and move on
to Game 4," Heat coach Pat Riley
said. "They were doing a
great job of kicking our (butt) and then we started looking at
the officials. Our guys have a lot of pride, but to me that is
not what it is all about."
It all began with the problems encountered by the 7-1, 325-pound
O'Neal, who averaged 24.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in the first
two games and has been an unstoppable force in the postseason
throughout his Hall of Fame career.
O'Neal finished with eight points, one better than his career
playoff low. He made 4-of-8 shots - three coming in the
meaningless final period - and missed all six free throws while
committing seven turnovers.
"I got into foul trouble early and never got into the flow of
the game," O'Neal said. "The foul trouble is very frustrating,
and I knew when I saw (referee) Bob Delaney I was going to be in
trouble anyway. We did still have chances to win the game; we
just made mistakes you can't make in this building."
Unable to play through their big man, the Heat fell behind early
and never recovered. They shot just 42 percent (30-of-72)
overall and surrendered 61 points in the second half, when they
could not match the energy of the Bulls.
"They just played with more energy than we did," Heat guard
said. "Our team was not as focused on defense as it
should be. In the first two games we sent them into our big
guys. Today, with Shaq in foul trouble, it was a different
Chicago ended a six-game postseason losing streak and will have
a chance to even the series at home Saturday.
scored 11 points and Gordon in the first quarter,
which ended with Chicago holding a 31-23 lead.
Already off to a sloppy start, O'Neal took a seat with his third
foul with 8:54 left in the second quarter. In the first half,
he made 1-of-2 shots, missed all three of his free throws and
committed four turnovers.
Consecutive hoops by Michael Sweetney
opened a 43-33 advantage
before the Bulls settled for a 48-42 halftime lead.
"We were fortunate that Shaq got into foul trouble," Sweetney
said. "It was nothing we did as a team, even though we shut the
paint down a little bit. Shaq got three offensive fouls and a
couple were bad calls, so we got lucky on that."
The second half was barely under way when O'Neal sat again with
his fourth foul at the 10:16 mark. He watched the rest of the
third quarter as the Bulls broke open the game, scoring 39
points and racing to an 87-71 lead as the backcourt duo of
Gordon (13) and Kirk Hinrich
(15) combined for 28 points in the
"We just tried to be more aggressive, especially on our
pick-and-rolls," Hinrich said. "It was also about just making
plays, whether it was taking my shot or looking for other
The Heat seemed prepared for O'Neal's absence as backup center
was back after missing more than a month with a
calf injury. But Mourning also was ineffective, going scoreless
with two rebounds and two fouls in eight minutes.
"We needed to go out there and handle business ourselves and we
didn't do that," Mourning said. "We also need to quit worrying
about our offense; we need to start worrying about our defense.
That is our biggest concern."
As bad as O'Neal was, he managed to stick around longer than
teammates James Posey
and Antoine Walker
. With 3:15 remaining,
Posey took a running shoulder block at Hinrich and received an
automatic ejection for a flagrant-2 foul.
"I was just trying to get back on defense and cut the ball off,"
Posey said. "He didn't see me and that's how collisons happen.
That's all it was."
Asked if he thought Posey was looking for trouble, Hinrich said,
"I don't know. Maybe he was. I guess he just wanted to make a
hard foul. Sometimes that's part of the game."
Six seconds later, Walker was whistled for his sixth foul,
leading to technicals for himself and teammate Udonis Haslem
Hinrich had 22 points and 11 assists and Nocioni and Luol Deng
scored 19 points each for the Bulls, who shot 46 percent
(36-of-78) and committed just 11 turnovers while forcing 19.
"I definitely wanted to be aggressive tonight," Deng said. "I
didn't get a lot of looks down in Miami. Tonight I took the
shots the game presented."
Chicago native Wade scored 26 points and Jason Williams
for the Heat.