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The Miami Heat are one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference finals and can seal the deal Wednesday when they host the beleaguered Chicago Bulls in Game 5. Miami has won the last three games by an average of 23.3 points and routed the Bulls 88-65 in Monday’s game to take a 3-1 series lead. Chicago appeared worn down and shot a franchise playoff-low 25.7 percent from the field in a poor effort.
The 65 points were also a franchise postseason low for a squad that has been hindered by the absences of forward Luol Deng (complications from a spinal tap) and point guard Kirk Hinrich (calf). Former MVP Derrick Rose (knee) never opted to suit up despite being medically cleared two months ago, and Nate Robinson finally hit the wall with a 0-for-12 shooting effort in Game 4. “We have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Robinson said after Game 4. “Everyone said we wouldn’t win a game. We got one. We believe we can win the series.” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra refuses to believe Chicago is spent and done mounting a threat. “You don’t want to give this team second life,” Spoelstra said. “They’re far too dangerous for that type of mentality because they just continue to grind and they compete and we know that. We respect that.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT THE BULLS: Chicago’s porous Game 4 showing bottomed out with a nine-point third quarter, the lowest output in the franchise’s playoff history. The starting five was a combined 11-of-50 from the field as the Bulls scoring average in the series dropped to 82.5. “We got a little discouraged and we can’t let that happen,” center Joakim Noah said afterward. “We did not play very well. We did not execute very well. We can’t put our heads down. We know we can compete with this team.” Veteran guard Richard Hamilton saw his first action in the series with 11 points in 22 minutes. Hamilton had been banished deep on the bench despite all the injuries.
ABOUT THE HEAT: Miami’s dominance in the series has been done with minimal contributions from standout guard Dwyane Wade. A badly bruised right knee has severely diminished Wade’s ability to play at a high level and he is averaging only 11.3 points after scoring just six points on 3-of-10 shooting in Game 4. “It’s just frustrating at times, but just try to do what you can,” Wade said. “Sometimes it feels good, sometimes it doesn’t. You can’t predict it.” Wade’s condition is one of the reasons why the Heat would like to finish the series Wednesday and give Wade time to rest the knee while awaiting the start of the conference finals.
1. The Heat have won each of their last five closeout playoff games by double digits.
2. Chicago’s 65 points in Game 4 were the second fewest Miami has allowed in a playoff game.
3. Miami F LeBron James is averaging 23.8 points, 7.8 assists, seven rebounds and 2.3 steals in the series.
PREDICTION: Heat 98, Bulls 81