MIAMI — The odds had to overwhelmingly be in Chicago's favor. Down by a point with 22.7 seconds left, with Derrick Rose heading to the line to shoot a pair of free throws.
The reigning NBA MVP. He was a perfect 29 for 29 from the foul line in the fourth quarter this season. As if this moment needed extra significance, it was coming against the Miami Heat, the team that downed Rose and the Bulls in last season's Eastern Conference finals by taking the series' last four games.
Rose missed the first.
Missed the second, too.
And missed a potentially game-tying jumper with 3.7 seconds left to boot, as somehow the Heat held on for a wild 97-93 win on Sunday. LeBron James — the player who Rose supplanted as the league MVP — scored 35 points for Miami, which never trailed yet never could relax until Chris Bosh sealed it by making two free throws with 0.1 seconds left.
"This is so surreal right now knowing that I had a chance to win the game," said Rose, emotional at his locker afterward. "And this time it didn't work out."
Bosh scored 24 points and added 12 rebounds for the Heat (15-5), who got 15 points from Dwyane Wade and pulled within one game of the Bulls (17-5) in the East.
"Like the playoffs in January," Wade said.
Richard Hamilton and Joakim Noah each scored 11 for Chicago, which got 10 apiece from Ronnie Brewer and Carlos Boozer.
"A highly contested basketball game," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
Oh, that doesn't even begin to tell the story of this one.
"I let my team down," Rose said.
It had a little of everything. James leaped over — yes, over — Chicago's 5-foot-11 John Lucas for an alley-oop dunk from Wade in the opening minutes, saying afterward he never saw the Bulls' guard in his path. Wade missed nine of his first 10 shots, airballing the last of those. James missed a pair of free throws 5.1 seconds after Rose misfired on his tries in the final moments. There were skirmishes, hard fouls, pushing and screaming and shoving. Even an inadvertent whistle in the final moments that ultimately didn't hurt Miami, although the Heat strongly believed the whistle took away their advantage.
As for that notion that this was "just another game" ... nope. Not even close.
"The way I see it, every time we play the Bulls it's going to be like that," Bosh said. "It's always going to be an atmosphere where nobody wants to lose and that's how the playoffs are."
This wasn't the playoffs.
It only seemed that way.
The Bulls trailed by 12 points midway through the second quarter, though never let Miami pull completely away. Not even in the fourth quarter, when it seemed like Miami was on the cusp: James connected on a long jumper to close the third quarter, then he and Shane Battier set each other up for 3-pointers on the first two possessions of the fourth for an 82-71 lead.
Chicago called time-out, and Rose willed the Bulls back. A floating jumper made it 84-82, and a knifing layup that he made seem simply effortless knotted the game for the fourth and final time with 6:55 left.
The Heat answered with a 10-2 run, before Chicago rallied again, Rose's three-point play with 49.1 seconds left cutting the lead to 94-93.
On the play where he missed the free throws, Rose then lost the ball on a drive, but drew contact from Miami's Udonis Haslem and went to the line. Rose's first hit the front of the rim and bounced away, and his second rimmed out. James grabbed the rebound and was fouled by Noah — only to miss both free throws himself.
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