MIAMI, April 24 (Ticker) --
The Miami Heat are turning their Eastern Conference first-round series against the Chicago Bulls into repeat viewing.
With Jason Williams
again supporting the superstar tandem of Shaquille O'Neal
and Dwyane Wade
, the Heat held on for a 115-108 victory over the Bulls and opened a 2-0 lead in the series.
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The second-seeded Heat gave the seventh-seeded Bulls a bad case of deja vu. O'Neal scored 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting and blocked three shots as he again was a considerable factor on both ends of the floor. Wade had 21 points and seven assists as he again handled the playmaking.
"We feel good," O'Neal said. "We know what they're going to do. (Bulls coach) Scott Skiles
is telling the world what they are going to do. ... If they are going to continue to double me, I'm going to keep picking them apart. I was actually looking forward to going to the line 30 or 40 times tonight."
Williams has emerged as a consistent third option in the offense. After scoring 17 points in Game 1, the point guard totaled 17 of his 22 in the first half, when Miami made Chicago's determined defense appear porous.
"I have to be ready to take them (jumpers) when I'm open and when those guys double Shaq, he kicks it out and I take the shot," Williams said. "They (Wade and O'Neal) make my job a lot easier because all I have to do is be ready to shoot if it comes my way. My game is to play with a lot of energy and take advantage of the open shots and that's what I did."
As in the opener, the Bulls came up with a late surge to throw a small scare into the Heat, who have turned it up a notch in the postseason, just as O'Neal said they would.
"We pretty much got dominated from beginning to end," Skiles said. "Defensively, we're not getting it done."
The relative ease of the win was surprising considering that Miami was without backup center Alonzo Mourning
(calf) and starting power forward Udonis Haslem
, who was suspended for one game for throwing his mouthpiece at referee Joey Crawford in Game 1.
"This team is being judged very harshly and that's the way it is," Heat coach Pat Riley
said. "We have more than enough, even with Udonis and Alonzo out. There's enough offensive firepower to overcome the losses of players if we can sustain the defensive effort to make that work."
filled in nicely, playing the first 40 minutes without rest and collecting 17 points and 10 rebounds.
"He's (Haslem) a guy who gives us tremendous rebounding ability," Walker said. "He's our hustle guy. I extend the defense and make plays off the dribble and that's where our game differs, but we do complement each other, so when he's out I can come in and give them a different look."
The teams traded runs at the outset of each quarter. Miami began the game with an 8-0 burst en route to a 33-26 lead after one period as Williams scored 12 points.
Chicago responded with nine straight points to briefly grab the lead. The Bulls still were within 58-53 before unraveling. The half ended with Williams dribbling through the entire defense for a layup with 1.2 seconds left and Wade stealing the ensuing inbounds pass and dunking at the buzzer for a 68-57 advantage.
It was the most first-half points allowed this season by the Bulls, who dug themselves a huge hole despite shooting 61 percent from the field.
"Our defense is not nearly where it needs to be in order for us to win," Bulls guard Chris Duhon
said. "We're not going to win any games if they're scoring 68 points in the first half. We need to tighten up our defense and get them shooting in the low 40s. ... We need to find a way to slow (them) down."
had a 3-pointer and a driving three-point play in a 15-4 run that built Miami's lead to 89-69 with 2:44 left in the third quarter.
"They were brought in for the playoffs," O'Neal said of Miami's offseason acquisitions of Williams, Walker and Posey. "Last year, we had some injured and did not have the additional firepower. But now we have (it)."
The Bulls made their obligatory late push behind Kirk Hinrich
, who scored 11 of his 29 points in a 13-2 run that closed the margin to 104-97 with three minutes left. He scored 17 points in the final period. But it wasn't nearly enough.
''I think it was a little laziness on our part,'' Williams said of the Bulls late rush.
A 3-pointer by Andres Nocioni
, who scored a career-high 30 points, made it 108-104 with 1:15 remaining, but Wade answered with a leaner in the lane and Gary Payton
added two free throws to seal it.
scored 14 points and Ben Gordon
added 13 for the Bulls, who wasted their 53 percent (41-of-77) shooting with poor defense and sloppy play.
Chicago, which led the NBA in field-goal percentage defense for the second straight season, allowed Miami to shoot 52 percent (44-of-84) and committed 18 turnovers.
"I don't know what they shot, but we're a defensive team and should have had it on that end tonight," Hinrich said. "I really don't know how to explain it, except to say we weren't ready on that end."
The series shifts to Chicago for Games 3 and 4 on Thursday and Sunday.
"We need to stop O'Neal, but we need to stop the other guys, too," Nocioni said. "We paid every time because we tried to help take Shaquille O'Neal away."