Chicago 92, Miami 79

MIAMI, April 29, 2007 (AP) -- The Chicago Bulls swept the defending NBA champion Miami Heat out of the playoffs, winning a postseason series for the first time since the Michael Jordan era.

Ben Gordon scored 24 points, Luol Deng had 22 points and 11 rebounds and Chicago beat Miami 92-79 Sunday in Game 4 to finish off their first-round Eastern Conference series. The Bulls, who will face Detroit in the second round, became the first team to oust a defending champion in the opening playoff series since Phoenix did it to San Antonio in 2000.

The coach of that Suns team? Scott Skiles, who coaches the Bulls now - and who put together a plan that simply 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. ... We know what we're facing now. We want to keep moving on.''

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-record 17 on the defensive end - for the Heat.

Chicago became the 80th consecutive NBA team to advance after taking a 3-0 lead in a series; only three teams in major pro sports have overcome such a deficit, and the Heat won't be joining the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1975 New York Islanders and 2004 Boston Red Sox in that exclusive club.

"Somewhere in the NBA it's going to happen,'' Heat coach Pat Riley said before Sunday's game. "One day, one team, will do that.''

Not this day. And not this team. Riley shook Skiles' hand at midcourt when it was over, whispered a few words of encouragement, and then he and the Heat headed to their locker room - without their crown.

"We ran into more than a formidable opponent,'' Riley said. "They are a great team. ... They deserved to win. There's no doubt in my mind. They can go a long way.''

Miami, which didn't trail until late in the third quarter, got within one point twice in the fourth - first on a jumper by Wade with 11:15 left, then when Posey made a pair of free throws with 5:27 remaining. Chicago had an answer both times, and left celebrating - just as it did on Oct. 31, when it opened the season with a 108-66 stunner on the Heat's home floor.

This one was much closer - but hurt the Heat so much more.

"When you're competitors and you really want to win and you don't win and you don't fulfill your personal expectations, it's not easy,'' Riley said. "It's never easy. It's one of the most miserable experiences a man will ever have. And that's how I think we feel now.''

Wade scored with 2:32 left to get Miami within 84-79, and the Heat then turned to the Hack-a-Ben strategy - intentionally fouling the Bulls' Ben Wallace, a notoriously terrible foul shooter - with hopes of getting the ball back.

But Wallace made all four of his tries within a 21-second span to push the lead to nine, and the white-clad Heat crowd began shuffling into the offseason. All Miami could do was stare in silence at the final seconds of an injury-plagued year that simply never went its way.

"Tonight, they went down for me,'' Wallace said after his 7-for-8 effort from the line. "I might not make them tomorrow, but tonight, they went down.''

Wallace finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds and Andres Nocioni had 11 points for Chicago, which committed only five turnovers while forcing 17.

Miami scored the game's first eight points, the first six of those coming from O'Neal - who was 6-for-7 in the opening half. But the Bulls coolly withstood the opening burst and knotted the game at 14 when Gordon hit his second 3-pointer of the quarter with 5:30 left, the first of four ties in the half.

Chicago never led in the first half and trailed 48-44 at intermission, but probably felt quite good about the second quarter.

The Bulls made only 33 percent of their shots in that period, compared to 64 percent shooting by the Heat. Chicago still outscored Miami 21-20 in the second, because it took 24 attempts (making eight) and saw the Heat manage only 11 field-goal tries - a number limited by seven turnovers in the quarter.

Plus, the Heat were plagued again by their free throw shooting. After going 16-for-35 from the line in Friday's eight-point Game 3 defeat, Miami was 8-for-17 in the first half. O'Neal and Mourning, the Heat centers, were 10-for-11 from the field in the first 24 minutes, but 2-for-10 from the line in the same span.

And in the third, after spending 33 minutes chasing Miami, the Bulls got their first lead when Deng hit a jumper with 2:45 left. It was Deng's third basket in an 11-2 Chicago run to end the third quarter, and when Chris Duhon hit a 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left, the Bulls had a 68-64 lead entering the fourth.

They didn't trail again. And the so-called Baby Bulls - a young team that had endured two straight first-round ousters, including last year against Miami in six games - officially grew up.

"They showed signs of maturity,'' said Wallace, who now gets to face his old team, the Pistons, with a trip to the Eastern Conference finals at stake. "I like to see that.''

Notes: The Bulls beat Detroit in three of four meetings this season. ... Hinrich was shaken up while fouling O'Neal 34 seconds into the game. Hinrich stayed down under the basket for a few moments, but remained in the game. ... Posey replaced Jason Kapono as the starter at small forward for Miami; before Game 3, Kapono took the starter spot from Eddie Jones, who did not play in Game 4. ... Antoine Walker hit a 35-footer at the buzzer of the first quarter, and Wade had a three-point play for Miami with 0.6 seconds left in the half.


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