Say this for the gritty, resilient, short-handed Bulls: They did not succumb meekly here Wednesday.
Overcoming an early 18-point hole, Chicago served up a valiant, admirable effort before squandering an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter and missing two 25-foot three-point attempts in the final 16 seconds that could have tied the score.
Nate Robinson missed the first, a decent look that bounced off on a night he scored 21.
Carlos Boozer rebounded, and Jimmy Butler ended up with a good look on his three-pointer with 1.8 seconds left.
“I was wide open, and I just missed the shot,” Butler said. “Had a good look. I’ll take that any day. [But] we’re proud of our guys. We put on a hell of a fight. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.”
For a while, it looked as though the Bulls might send this back to Chicago for a Game 6. Down 22-4 early, Chicago outscored the Heat, 45-21, in the final 17:24 of the first half, then extended its lead to 77-69 after three.
But the Bulls mustered just 14 points in the fourth quarter on 6 for 18 shooting, with four turnovers.
They weren’t especially sharp defensively in the fourth, and their luck with Shane Battier ran out, as Battier — who missed several open threes in this series — drained two of them to fuel the Heat’s rally early in the fourth.
This was Boozer’s signature moment of this series — his 19 points before halftime were his most in a first half of a playoff game, and he finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds, game highs in both categories.
But he also missed an 11-foot jumper with 1:07 left and the Bulls down 94-91.
“I’m proud of my guys,” he said. “We didn’t cry about anything.”
Earlier in the series, Derrick Rose told Boozer: “If they put Battier on you, run his [butt] over.” Boozer had some success against Battier, but Battier held up well in the fourth.
After shooting 0 for 12 in Game 4, Robinson missed his first two shots and picked up two fouls in the first 4:29. He had some good moments when he returned — including four three-pointers and six assists — but closed 6 for 15 from the field and had four turnovers.
“God tested me, and I’ll pass the test tonight,” Robinson promised several hours before the game, adding: “It will be that much sweeter if we get the win tonight to prove you [doubters] wrong.”
Afterward, Robinson said the Bulls’ rally from 18 down “shows how tough we are, how much grit we have. We’re a bunch of warriors. I’m disappointed. This [stinks].”
Robinson said when the Bulls were down big early, “I told my guys … ‘Shots are going to fall.’ We gathered our composure.”
Joakim Noah had nine rebounds but just one block and scored only three points on 1 for 5 shooting. The Bulls also hurt themselves by missing 7 of 24 free throws, with Boozer missing 5 of 11.
Afterward, the Bulls spoke optimistically about their chances of challenging the Heat when healthy. Chicago played this series without Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and All-Star point guard Derrick Rose, who didn’t play all season because of knee surgery.
“If we’re [healthy in the playoffs] next year, we’ll be scary,” Boozer said.