MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The easiest part of the playoff schedule for the Miami Heat is behind them and now the real test begins as the team awaits either the Indiana Pacers or the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Miami survived a feisty Chicago Bulls team in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Friday night. Chicago was missing its top three players, Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich, and Derrick Rose, and still took Miami to the final buzzer in Game 5.
While Miami had a commanding 3-1 lead heading into Game 5, Heat fans were concerned with the condition of guard Dwyane Wade’s right knee. Wade has battled a knee problem throughout the playoffs and at times it’s forced him to completely change his game, but never to the detriment of the team.
During Game 5, Wade went into the locker room to have his knee re-wrapped heading into the fourth quarter. When he re-entered the game, he helped the Heat push ahead of the Bulls for the rest of the game.
Wade scored six points in the fourth quarter and in 45 seconds had a blocked shot, defensive rebound, offensive rebound, and a massive putback dunk that had the crowd of the AmericanAirlines Arena rocking.
“Dwyane is uncanny,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said. “When the competition is at its highest, and its fiercest, he finds a way.”
“I’ll go on and on about how great he is,” Heat superstar LeBron James said. “I really don’t care for the trash talk that he receives.”
The Heat shut down center Joakim Noah in Game 5, limiting him to three points and nine rebounds. But, the Bulls did manage to get Carlos Boozer free for 26 points and 14 rebounds and Nate Robinson had 21 points, but needed 15 shots to get there.
Miami had another solid effort from the entire roster with LeBron, Udonis Haslem, Wade, and Chris Bosh all scoring in double-figures. Mario Chalmers added six points while Shane Battier added 9 points and Chris Andersen had six points in the victory.
Through nine playoff games, Miami is tops in points allowed per game at just 84.7. The Heat’s defense is only allowing teams to hit 29.8 percent of its three-point shots and just 40.9 percent of their overall shots, both of which are best in the league. Miami is also forcing 16 turnovers per game.
On the flip side, Miami is leading the league in field goal percentage at 49.1 percent in the playoffs and is sixth overall during the playoffs in points per game at 98.6.
Miami will open the East finals at home next week. If Indiana beats New York on Thursday — the Pacers lead that series 3-1 — then the Heat and Pacers will meet in Game 1 in Miami on Monday. If the Knicks extend the Pacers to at least six games, then the East finals open Wednesday, regardless of opponent.
“It only gets more difficult and more challenging,” Spoelstra said.
Miami has just one victory over each team this season and lost the season series to both the Knicks and the Pacers. But, that was outside of the playoffs and Miami will be able to rest Wade’s knee until Monday at the earliest.
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