HEAT 83 - Bulls 80 Game 5 Recap

CHICAGO – The words are always there, but rarely are they this elusive.

“We don't even know what happened,” Dwyane Wade said, sitting next to LeBron James after the game.

“We don't honestly know what happened,” James said. “We know some big plays happened, and we know we won the game. It went so fast.”

It was incredible, deserving of a strange brew of hyperbole, gasps for air and more than a few raised eyebrows. It is a story that will be told ten years from now. It was special.

With 3:14 remaining in Game 5, the Miami HEAT trailed the Chicago Bulls, 77-65. Ronnie Brewer had scored four consecutive points and the Bulls had spent the previous 45 minutes putting the HEAT through the defensive meat grinder. Wade had nine turnovers and a nightmare of a night, James had little offense other than a number of tough jumpers that managed to fall and Miami’s offense looked as bad as it had at any point since November. Describing their shooting percentage as sub-40 percent would have been generous.

Had the game continued as such – there was no indication whatsoever that it wouldn’t – there wouldn’t have been much to speak of. The Bulls were getting more misses out of the HEAT, but it was not as if they had figured out some new way to score, shooting below 40 percent themselves. The proceedings were uncomely, the difference being, between turnovers and offensive rebounds, all the extra possessions Miami was giving Chicago to find something that worked.

Had Chicago won, the story would have ended there. We would have moved on to Game 6 as soon as the final buzzer sounded. Instead, we got something that lingers. Something that will burrow into memory.

After Brewer’s free throw, the HEAT were down 12. Wade had shot 3-of-10 to that point and appeared to have no feel for the ball or awareness of Chicago’s defense. So, on Miami’s next possession, Wade naturally drove down the right side of the court and dropped in a runner off the glass. Twenty seconds later, following his own steal of a Derrick Rose pass, Wade went the length of the court, wound up on the right baseline and floated in a short shot as he got fouled. He missed the free throw.

At this point, Miami was down eight with 2:36 to play, miracle territory if you believe in that sort of thing, but certainly a situation that was perfect-basketball-or-bust. Not just perfect basketball, but the most perfect, highly-efficient basketball any team is capable of. With a little luck throw in.

The HEAT then got a missed jumper out of Taj Gibson, and it was James’ turn. His weapon of choice in this situation was familiar: a three. He had hit them against the Boston Celtics, and he had already beaten the Bulls with it late in games. This triple brought Miami within five.

But when Rose hit a spinning floater in the lane over James the next time down the floor to make the lead seven, the efforts of Wade and James appeared to be fool’s gold.

Remember that part about needing perfect basketball?

After Rose’s make, Wade sprinted from the depths of the paint to receive the ball from James, just to the right of the top of the arc. He took one dribble, set his feet precariously on the edges of the line, and launched the three. Before the ball was even halfway to the rim, Rose hit Wade on the elbow. Whistle. And the ball dropped through. Somewhere, Larry Johnson nodded.

Now it’s a three-point game. The job isn’t done. James locks up Rose again, gets a miss and collects the rebound. Before what was happening even fully set in with those in attendance, James pulled up on the left wing. Behind the arc. Good. Tie game with 61 seconds to play. Timeout Bulls.

“I just got to keep being put in those situations, like I said, and not be afraid to fail,” James said.

Rose gets the ball again. James shadows him perfectly. When Rose tries to reverse course and find an open teammate, James deflects the ball for a steal. 52 seconds left.

James faces up Ronnie Brewer. Hard dribble to the left elbow. Feet planted. Pull up. Jumper.

Miami leads by two. The United Center’s chaos is silent.

The Bulls still had their chance. Rose drew a foul on James after the ensuing timeout and missed a free throw. On the inbounds, the HEAT threw the ball into the backcourt to James, but the ball was tipped by Chicago before finding his hands. Chris Bosh got to the line and hit both his freebies, but the Bulls still has 16 seconds to tie the game with a three. Udonis Haslem likely saved the day, then, stepping up to arms-straight-up contest Rose on the left wing while James recovered to block the shot. The HEAT had won.

It only speaks to the improbable madness which transpired that it took minutes for it to sink in that this was the win that sent Miami to the NBA Finals, where the Dallas Mavericks wait. This three-minute chapter, a novella in itself, of the 2011 playoff story was that involving as a standalone piece, the perfect tale for dispelling mid-season panic about arbitrarily-ranged clutch statistics. A season in the frying pan prepared the HEAT for the fryer, so to speak, and the process produced the result.

Not a result for measurement, as this was still the majesty of individual talent superseding strategy and percentages, but the right result at the right time.

The Finals will be a different beast. But they start Tuesday. Take the time to breathe and appreciate this. It. What happened in Game 5. And maybe put on a hat to tip to the Bulls