CHICAGO, April 27 (Ticker) -- One of the worst games of Shaquille O'Neal's career could not have come at a better time for the Chicago Bulls.

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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Ben Gordon 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 Scott Skiles 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 Bulls.

"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 Dwyane Wade 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 story."

Chicago ended a six-game postseason losing streak and will have a chance to even the series at home Saturday.

Andres Nocioni 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 period.

"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 people."

The Heat seemed prepared for O'Neal's absence as backup center Alonzo Mourning 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 added 17 for the Heat.