CHICAGO (AP) — Right from the start, LeBron James made it clear he was going to attack and no one was going to stop him.
James came up big down the stretch with nine of his 29 points in the final 4:27, Dwyane Wade added 24 and the Miami Heat beat the Chicago Bulls 85-75 Wednesday night to tie the Eastern Conference finals at one game apiece.
“It was a big game,” James said. “We felt like it was a must win for us going back home.”
The Heat can breathe a little easier after escaping with a win and stealing home-court advantage. Coming off a lopsided loss in Game 1, they recovered in crunch time — thanks in large part to James — after blowing an 11-point lead.
Game 3 is Sunday in Miami.
James shook off a brutal opener and took over late in the fourth, starting with a 3-pointer that put Miami ahead for good at 76-73. He also had 10 rebounds despite a head cold, and Miami outrebounded the Bulls 45-41 after getting pounded 45-33 on the glass in the opener.
It was a big turnaround for James after he managed only 15 points on 5-for-15 shooting while being harassed by Luol Deng in Game 1. Wade, coming off an 18-point performance in the opener, also had nine rebounds for Miami.
Miami reserve Udonis Haslem, whom Spoelstra called “an absolute championship warrior,” provided a spark with 13 points, and the Heat beat the Bulls for the first time this season even though Chris Bosh scored just 10 points after pouring in 30 in the opener.
“We got that one that we needed,” Wade said. “Now, we go home and we’ve got to take care of business. This team right here is like us. They can win at home and on the road.”
Joakim Noah had nine points and eight rebounds, and Taj Gibson provided a spark in the fourth with all of his eight points. Carlos Boozer, however, was a non-factor with seven points and eight rebounds and sat out the final 16:21.
“We let one go, but it’s a tied series,” Deng said. “It’s not the end of the world. These things will happen. We need to bounce back.”
The Bulls missed countless layups and got outshot 47.1 percent to 34.1 percent. They were 3 of 20 from 3-point range and 16 of 26 at the foul line.