CHICAGO -- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh joined to win a championship. Well, now they have their shot.
James scored 28 points, Wade added 21, and they led a furious rally in the final minutes as the Miami Heat eliminated Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls 83-80 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals Thursday night.
James and Wade were simply spectacular down the stretch, each scoring eight during a game-ending 18-3 run as Miami wiped out a 12-point deficit to win the series.
Now, the Heat are headed back to the NBA finals for the first time since 2006, and in a fitting twist, they'll be facing the Mavericks. Back then, with Wade leading the way, Miami beat Dallas to capture the championship. This time, it'll be James and Dirk Nowitzki going for their first rings.
The Heat will host Game 1 on Tuesday night.
For Miami's Big Three, this was the plan right from the start. The Heat had their difficulties along the way, but look at them now.
They just knocked off the team that won more games than any other, that boasted the league's MVP in Rose and sent expectations soaring around Chicago in a way not seen since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were racking up championships.
Rose led Chicago with 25 points but hit just 9-of-29 shots. He fouled Wade on a key four-point play and missed a tying free throw with 26.7 seconds left.
James had 11 rebounds and six assists. Wade's late surge helped negate his nine turnovers. Bosh added 20 points and 10 rebounds as the Heat pulled out a dramatic win.
The Bulls looked like they were in good shape up 77-65 with about three minutes to go, but Wade started the deciding run with a runner and layup. A 3 by James pulled Miami within 77-72 with 2:07 left. Rose then scored on a spin move in the lane, but fouled Wade as he nailed a 3, resulting in a four-point play.
Then, after a miss by Rose, James tied it at 79 with another 3 with 1:01 remaining, sending a loud groan through the arena.
James buried another jumper to put Miami ahead 81-79 with 29.5 seconds left. Rose immediately got fouled by James, but he missed the second free throw after making the first.
Kurt Thomas then tipped the inbounds pass, but the Heat recovered, leading to two free throws for Bosh. The Bulls still had one more chance to tie it, but Kyle Korver got doubled up top and passed to Rose on the wing. His 3-pointer got blocked by James, with Udonis Haslem doubling him as time expired.
Mavs get another chance
DALLAS -- For five years, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry have lived with the regret of letting an NBA championship slip away.
Next week, they get to try again in the same place where everything fell apart.
The scene was Miami, where the Dallas Mavericks led 2-0 in the series and by 13 points with 6:34 left in Game 3. Had the Mavs held on, they almost certainly would've claimed their first title. Instead, they lost that game and the next three, a humiliating finish to the greatest season in club history.
Now they've topped themselves. A 12-3 romp through the postseason has put the Mavs back in the finals against the Heat.
Since struggling in Portland during the first round, the Mavericks have won 10 of 11 games. Nowitzki is playing at the highest level of his already outstanding career, and the front-office guys look like geniuses for loading up on 30-something guys who've never won a title.
Everyone in the locker room has bought into coach Rick Carlisle's defense-first approach. Nobody gripes about playing time or personal stats, such as who will be Nowitzki's top sidekick on a given night. They're truly bonded by the notion the ring is the only thing that matters.
Their unselfishness was especially evident Wednesday night, when the Mavs pulled off a second straight fourth-quarter rally against the inexperienced Oklahoma City Thunder. Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, and Terry all made key plays -- not just baskets, but crucial steals, rebounds and passes.
"We've got some guys with some very decorated careers here that have taken on different types of roles on a team that's building a strength-in-numbers type team," Carlisle said.
Nowitzki and Terry are the only holdovers left from the 2006 squad. Kidd has been to the finals twice. Marion was on some Phoenix teams that came oh-so-close. Peja Stojakovic had some near-misses with Sacramento.