Saturday , Apr , 28 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Bulls push Heat to brink of elimination

Miami, FL (Sports Network) – Ben Gordon scored 27 points and Luol Deng added
24 points and 11 rebounds as the Chicago Bulls held off the Miami Heat,
104-96, at AmericanAirlines Arena for a commanding 3-0 lead in their best-of-
seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.

Gordon scored 10 of his points during a game-clinching 21-5 run in the fourth
quarter for the Bulls, who will go for the series sweep on Sunday. Kirk
Hinrich added 22 points and six assists for Chicago, which won a road playoff
game for the first time since Michael Jordan led the franchise to its sixth
title in eight years in 1998.

“We came in an were focused,” said Hinrich. “We try to come in here and take
it one game at a time. We focused on this game tonight and it wasn’t easy at
all to get a win but we are thrilled that we did. We realize that we still
have one more to go.”

Dwyane Wade scored 28 points and nine rebounds, Shaquille O’Neal recorded 23
points and 13 boards for the defending champion Heat, who held a double-digit
lead before faltering in the final quarter.

Down 79-72 early in the fourth quarter the Bulls took control. Gordon started
the 21-5 run with a jumper and he later ended the surge with a pair of free
throws for a 93-84 cushion. It was Hinrich’s runner during the burst with 8:47
left that gave Chicago the lead for good.

Miami later drew within 99-96, but Wade missed a jumper with just under a
minute left that would have made it a one-point game and the Bulls held on for
the win, ending a six-game road playoff losing streak.

“We played extremely hard to win the game,” said Gordon. “Naturally the guys
are going to be a little more excited. (The Heat) is a good team that could
win four games in a row. So it’s not over. We just have to stay composed and
play really really hard.”

The Heat face a daunting task, as no team in NBA history has ever won a best-
of-seven series after losing the first three games. Miami also faces becoming
the first defending champion to be swept in a first-round game since the
Philadelphia Warriors in 1957.

Chicago controlled much of the action in the first quarter, leading by as many
as nine points, 27-18, after a Chris Duhon bucket late in the stanza and the
Bulls eventually went into the second with a 29-23 lead.

Miami, though, opened the second half with a 14-2 run to take the lead.
Antoine Walker had five points during the run, hitting a three-pointer to put
the Heat in the lead. O’Neal then scored the final four points of the surge
for a 37-31 advantage.

The Heat continued to hold the Bulls at bay throughout the third, going ahead
by as many as 12 points after O’Neal a pair of free throws for a 72-60 lead
with 3:42 left in the third.

“After we got the 12-point lead, (Scott Skiles) went with their small line up
and Ben (Gordon) started getting some freedom and some room and we could not
stop him,” said Miami head coach Pat Riley.

Walker ended with 12 points and James Posey had 10 for Miami, which had an
eight-game home playoff win streak halted.

Game Notes

Chicago’s Andres Nocioni left the game in the second half, but did return,
with a thigh bruise. He ended with 10 points…Ben Wallace had 11 points and
eight rebounds for the Bulls…Deng’s rebound total was a career playoff
high…O’Neal and Wade went a combined 7-of-22 from the free throw line…The
last defending champion to lose in the first round of the playoffs were the
1984 Philadelphia 76ers.