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updated: 5/25/2011 2:20 AM

Bulls have chances but can't get it done

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  • Chicago Bulls' Joakim Noah sits on the bench during the second half against the Miami Heat during Game 4 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals, Tuesday, May 24, 2011. The Heat defeated the Bulls 101-93 in overtime.

      Chicago Bulls' Joakim Noah sits on the bench during the second half against the Miami Heat during Game 4 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals, Tuesday, May 24, 2011. The Heat defeated the Bulls 101-93 in overtime.

 
 

MIAMI -- When Derrick Rose said before the Eastern Conference finals that he felt like it was the Bulls against the world, most people laughed off the comment. But this might have been exactly what he had in mind.

The Bulls had a chance to storm the sand castle Tuesday night and head home with the series tied at 2-2. They could have silenced the Miami fans, put an end to the post-basket posing and overcome an almost absurd free-throw discrepancy.

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But they couldn't put the game away late in the fourth quarter with three chances to take the lead in the final minute.

The Bulls struggled in overtime and trudged off the court with a heartbreaking 101-93 loss. They trail 3-1 in the Eastern Conference finals but can stay alive with a victory back at the United Center on Thursday.

"It's not over," Rose said after the game. "We still have games to play. We have to stay positive."

As the clock wound down, the Bulls could only watch in disgust as the Heat players mugged after every positive play and the fans threw white towels everywhere.

Rose missed a free throw with 1:10 left that could have given them a 1-point lead. Then with two chances to break open a tie game in the final minute, Rose was isolated against LeBron James and missed a couple of long step-back jumpers.

Knowing James probably is the longest defender with any chance to stick with Rose, it might have been a good time for a screen and possible switch. The possession began with eight seconds on the clock, but his 19-footer fell short of the rim.

"We wanted to get the last shot, give him space to get to the spot and he missed," Thibodeau said of Rose. "I wouldn't want to have any other guy. I'm with that guy all the way. He's a great player, a great competitor, and I have great belief in him."

Rose hit 8 of 27 shots for 23 points and had 7 turnovers. In the first half, he threw down a couple of powerful dunks in less than 30 seconds. Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer scored 20 points each. James led Miami with 35.

The Bulls played well defensively but finished with 22 turnovers and were outscored 32-17 at the foul line. The free throws were hard to figure, since the Bulls dominated points in the paint 44-24.

"This series is an absolute bloodbath. That game tonight was a grind," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It's about as competitive and as physical as it can be. It was about enduring and staying with it mentally and physically. It's as physical a series as I've been around and been in."

In overtime, Chris Bosh (22 points) opened the scoring with 2 free throws, then added a jumper to make it a 4-point game. The Bulls got back into it when Ronnie Brewer knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 89-88 with 2:33 left.

The Bulls needed a stop, but instead Dwyane Wade lowered his shoulder to create some space then knocked down a corner jumper against Brewer. It was Wade's first points since the second quarter.

Boozer was fouled and hit just 1 of 2 free throws, cutting the lead to 2 points. James finished a driving lay-in to make it 93-89 with 1:36 left.

The Bulls responded with two bad mistakes. First, Deng threw an inbounds pass straight out of bounds. He seemed to be looking for Joakim Noah to cut toward the baseline, but it didn't happen.

The Bulls got a stop, but Rose simply lost his dribble trying to make a cut in the lane. The turnover led to a Wade fastbreak lay-in that made it 95-91 with just more than a minute remaining.

"Tonight, it was definitely on me," Rose said. "I had two opportunities to end the game. Couldn't do it. Too many turnovers. Really, it was my fault, but I'm going to learn from it.

The Bulls lost their third straight game for the first time all season. They led by 6 early in the fourth quarter, but the Heat came back with a 9-0 run.

The lead changed hands a couple of times in the final 90 seconds. Brewer hit 2 free throws with 1:26 left. Bosh answered with a corner jumper. Then Rose was fouled on a drive, but hit just 1 of 2 at the line to leave the game in a tie with 1:10 on the clock.

During a frantic final minute, Wade missed a shot, Rose had a jumper roll around the rim and out, then Brewer drew a charge against James, who tried to back his way into the post.

•mmcgraw@dailyherald.com. Get the latest Bulls news via Twitter by following McGrawDHBulls.

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