Bulls take Heat to tie up series

Bulls take Heat to tie up series

CHICAGO – The Miami Heat bickered among themselves. Shaquille O’Neal had another rough outing. And the Chicago Bulls took advantage.

Kirk Hinrich scored 21 points and hit a key 3-pointer with 1:09 left, and the Bulls evened the first-round series at 2-2 with a 93-87 victory on Sunday.

“The team believes it can win this series, and that’s it,” forward Andres Nocioni said.

With O’Neal in foul trouble for much of the game, the Bulls built a 13-point lead in the third quarter, only to fall behind in the fourth before pulling the game out. Game 5 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday in Miami.

Chris Duhon’s runner gave the Bulls an 85-83 lead with 1:42 left. After a timeout, Miami’s Dwyane Wade missed a jumper, and Hinrich hit a 3-pointer from several feet beyond the top of the key to make it 88-83 with 1:09 left.

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“I knew that I was behind the line a little ways, but I wasn’t thinking about how long,” he said. “I knew the clock was down to about six or five. They were off me and I took a rhythm dribble and let it go.”

Wade’s layup made it a three-point game, and Hinrich threw the ball away with 46.8 seconds left. But the Heat couldn’t capitalize.

Wade missed a jumper, Udonis Haslem missed the put-back, and Wade missed another follow-up. And the Bulls hung on, although Tyson Chandler was carried off the court with 26.3 seconds with what the Bulls said was a moderate to mild right ankle sprain.

Nocioni led the Bulls with 24 points, and Ben Gordon scored 23. Hinrich had nine assists.

Antoine Walker scored 21 for the Heat, and Wade finished with 20 on 8-of-23 shooting. But O’Neal was in foul trouble for the second straight game. He finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and four fouls, and left the locker room without talking to reporters.

Heat teammates Gary Payton and Wade shouted at each other late in the first half. They continued to go at it during a timeout with 39.8 seconds left in the second quarter, and Walker got into it with Payton.

As the Heat headed toward the locker room, trailing 44-40, O’Neal wrapped his arm around Payton and said something in his ear.

“Next question. Next question,” Payton said when asked about the spat.

“Nah, I ain’t talking about that,” Wade said.

And Walker shrugged off the question, saying, “I don’t know. We messed up a play or something.”

The Heat had more to say about the disparity in fouls and free throw attempts. They were whistled for 31 fouls to the Bulls’ 17. That led to Chicago hitting 24 of 31 foul shots, while the Heat were 4-for-5.

“We played great defense without fouling,” Gordon said.

The Heat had a different perspective.

“Thirty-one to five, that’s just enough right there,” Wade said. “I’m not going to say any more. Thirty-one free throws to five.”

O’Neal, meanwhile, had his own difficulties.

This was not quite the follow-up to Game 3 he had in mind, when he finished with eight points (one more than his career playoff low), four rebounds, five fouls and seven turnovers in a 109-90 loss.

That performance left O’Neal “very, very humiliated,” and the game raised more questions about the Heat’s composure.

Forward James Posey served a one-game suspension on Sunday for knocking down Hinrich near the end of Game 3. Walker and Haslem – suspended for Game 2 after throwing his mouthpiece toward a referee in the series opener – received technical fouls a few seconds later. And O’Neal lashed out at referee Bob Delaney, drawing a $25,000 fine from the league on Saturday.