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Heat fight off Bulls, take series lead
Chicago, IL (Sports Network) - LeBron James was shoved to the floor by seldom-used center Nazr Mohammed early in the second quarter, nearly causing a huge fracas after an already testy Game 2.
James, though, opted not to retaliate.
The four-time NBA MVP winner had the last laugh in the end.
James netted 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, while Chris Bosh tallied 20 points and 19 rebounds in the Miami Heat's 104-94 win over the Chicago Bulls in Game 3 of this Eastern Conference semifinal.
The contest was tied 70-70 after three quarters of play, but Miami outscored Chicago 34-24 in the fourth to earn the victory and a 2-1 series edge.
Game 4 is Monday at the United Center.
James was just 6-of-17 from the floor, but hit all 11 of his free throws. He added eight rebounds and seven assists for the Heat, who shot 50 percent (35- of-70) from the floor.
Norris Cole had 18 points off the bench in the triumph.
"You're going to have to get dirty. You're going to have to play physical. You're going to have to dive on the floor. You're going to have to do things that are extremely tough," Bosh said.
Carlos Boozer had 21 points, Joakim Noah recorded 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Nate Robinson and Jimmy Butler registered 17 points apiece for the Bulls, who held a 44-28 advantage in points in the paint and a 14-4 edge in second- chance points edge.
"We're going to have to play our best game on Monday," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "When you play this team, you need a lot of mental, physical and emotional toughness. We're not going to get calls."
Forward Luol Deng and guard Kirk Hinrich were again unable to play for Chicago.
Deng underwent a spinal tap last week to rule out meningitis and has been slow to recover. He had complications from the procedure and tried to take part in Thursday's shoot-around, but is still too weak to play.
The 28-year-old also missed the first two games in Miami, as well as Games 6 and 7 in the first round against the Brooklyn Nets.
Hinrich hasn't played since Game 4 of the first round against the Nets because of a calf injury.
Wednesday's Game 2 in Miami saw both teams combine for nine technical fouls. Game 3 was another physical affair.
At the 9:29 mark of the second quarter, Mohammed wrapped up James just past the mid-court line to prevent a possible breakaway layup. NBA official Joey Crawford gave James a technical after he swung his elbow at Mohammed as the got two tangled with one another. Mohammed got up and emphatically pushed James onto the hardwood, which led to his ejection.
"I mean way too much to my teammates to retaliate," James said.
Marco Belinelli nailed a left corner 3-pointer to pull Chicago within 90-86 with 3:01 left. However, James and Cole knocked down triples, sandwiched around a Boozer baseline jumper, to increase the margin to 96-88 with 1:44 left.
Butler then sunk two free throws, but James converted a three-point play at the other end to make it a nine-point spread with 1:23 to go. Buckets by Robinson and Noah on back-to-back possessions then whittled the deficit to five.
Miami's Ray Allen then split a pair of free throws with 39.1 ticks to play, but with a chance to make it a one-possession game, Robinson's left-wing trey was too strong. James made two free throws to seal the outcome.
Earlier, Chicago jumped out to a 7-0 start before Miami outscored the hosts 25-18 over the duration of the quarter to tie the game at 25-25 after a period of play. Miami shot a scorching 61.1 percent (11-of-18) in the opening stanza.
Noah split a pair of foul shots to give the Bulls a 46-41 advantage with 3:15 left in the second, but James capped an 11-2 swing with four consecutive free throws for a 52-48 Miami cushion.
The Heat took a 52-50 edge into the locker room.
Neither squad led by more than four in a nip-and-tuck third quarter.
There were 11 lead changes and 14 ties ... Miami shot 86.7 percent (26-of-30) from the foul line ... Chicago netted 18 points off of 12 Heat turnovers ... Belinelli scored 16 points.
05/11 02:14:44 ET